by Ron Chernow
I'm a huge nerd, especially when it comes to history. I'm also a theatre major and love theatre. So when a musical called "Alexander Hamilton" became a hit on Broadway, I was hooked. After I was sufficiently enthralled with the story of one of our least celebrated founding fathers, I decided I must know more. I picked up the book that inspired it all.
As the story goes, Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up this book because it looked neat, then went on a vacation with his wife. He spent the entire week at the beach, reading the story of Alexander Hamilton. On the flight on the way home, he remarked to his wife, "I feel as if I know this guy, as if he's my best friend." That's what inspired him to write the musical.
I finished the book last night. Typically, I'm a fast reader and could churn through a 750 page book in a couple of days, but I took almost four months with this. I did it for a couple of reasons.
First, it's a dense book. Every single paragraph has quotes, pulled either from Hamilton's writings or the writings of those near him. It goes into such detail as the layout of his house in St. Croix or the kinds of buttons that were sewn on his coat. It's a rich history that pulls from the tapestry of Hamilton's life. It's not hard to read -- in fact, quite the opposite. It's an easy read, but it's filled with so much information that one must read slowly to fully appreciate it.
Second, I did want to savor the read. I often read for entertainment purposes, which means I can basically forget a story once I've read it. But this? The story behind my favorite musical and now my favorite founding father? I wanted to remember it as much as I could. So I would read one chapter during each reading session, and I'd ponder the things I'd learned the next day. I tried to remember the names and the places. Each night, my wife and I go on walks with our dog, and I would recount to her the things I'd learned from the previous day's chapter.
Ron Chernow has a gift with words and an extensive researcher's ability to put the tiniest detail in perspective. Lin-Manuel Miranda has an almost magical and uncanny ability to turn that story into a riveting musical. The amount of detail present in "Hamilton" is astounding. The sheer amount of real-life quotes that made it into the musical are mind-blowing. Throwaway details, like Angelica's "I'm just saying if you loved me you would share him" line in the musical is a full-fledged sub-plot in the life of Hamilton, where Angelica and Hamilton enjoyed a relationship that very well might have been romantic.
I could go on for hours about this, and like Miranda, I feel as if I know Hamilton now. I will definitely re-read this at a later date. If you want to talk Hamilton with me, ping me. I would love nothing more than to chat about this history and teh contents of this book.
This is, by far, my favorite book that I've read this year. It's the only book that has gotten a perfect score from me, and it will remain a cherished place on my bookshelf.
Pick it up. You won't regret it.