Hamilton: the Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda (2016)


10/10 would die for them

hamilton the revolution
Image from Amazon.com

Hamilton was such a Broadway success that it sparked a book detailing the show’s rocky and exciting road to fame. Hamilton: the Revolution is a nonfiction book about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s decisions, struggles, and inspirations when writing Hamilton and bringing it to the big stage. The book features spotlight chapters for every member of the main cast, which tie in seamlessly with the themes of of play’s major songs. Additionally, the lyrics to every song are laid out, featuring high-resolution photographs of their respective performances and footnotes by Lin himself.

Seven months ago, I saw “Aaron Burr, Sir” in my list of recommended videos on YouTube. I decided to click on it.

My addiction to Hamilton was so strong that this book was one of my graduation presents three months later. I finally got my paws on it, and now I’m here to tell you why I give this book the highest recommendation I have ever given to a nonfiction book.

Normally I split my reviews into something like “what I liked” or “what I disliked.” But in this case, the latter category would just be empty space on the page. So we’re doing things a little differently this time; I’ll just list my favorite parts of the book and why I loved them so much.

1. Lin’s Comments

Hamilton: the Revolution, is organized as such: words, song lyrics, words, song lyrics, words, the lyrics of two songs, words….so on and so forth. Even though I already know all the play’s lyrics, reading the song pages was what kept me up late at night reading. Why? Because Lin includes comments in the margins of every song: what this line originally said, what inspired him to write that specifically, where was he when he thought of it, what the portions had to be cut out, etc. Lin details which songs are dedicated to whom, what was going through his mind while writing it, and which parts were contributed by other people around him. It is absolutely incredible to hear a writer comment on his own writing in retrospect.

2. The Actor Spotlights

I’m not much for actors, personally. I can name a few voice actors, and the actors on Disney Channel when I was growing up (Zac Efron 4eva), but I only knew a few names from the Hamilton cast. Even then, I knew nothing about who they were, only who they played. Hamilton: the Revolution gave me the unique opportunity to actually learn about who these people are. I wouldn’t have cared if there were just small paragraphs to the side listing some trivia about them; this book actually ties their stories in with the stories of their characters in the play. Every chapter’s theme fits in with the theme of the song following it, which automatically means that every chapter focused on an actor automatically encompasses some lofty ideal or profound thought. Sometimes their backstories align with that of their characters, sometimes they’re utterly opposed. You never know, but for once, I was anxious to find out.

3. A Sneak Peek into the Mind of Someone More Successful than I Am

This is something I think we can all relate to. Why do we even care about celebrities and heroes? Why do we feel the urge to know everything about them? Because we want to be as successful as they are. Why do I care about Behind the Scenes, especially for writers and scientists? Because I want to some day be successful like them. I want to get the feel of when to quit, when to stick with something, when to follow my gut, when to follow my logic, etc.

But something else unexpected came from the sneak peeks that Hamilton: the Revolution provides; I got to see what making a play is like. Did I ever consider that plays didn’t just start on Broadway? Or maybe that people had seen parts of Hamilton before it ever reached Broadway? The thought never crossed my mind. Until now.

4. Inspiration

This right here. You see those large letters above this sentence? The ones that say “Inspiration”? That one word that those huge letters spell out is the main reason why I rate this book with a 10/10 (5 Stars). It’s also why I rate any book with 4 or 5 stars. I feel like I gained something from this book that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I tend to rate something as 4 Stars if it provides something in either my mind or my heart; either I learn something or I learn to feel something. A book gets a 5 star rating when it provides something in both my mind and my heart.

Mind: Every chapter is based around a theme that corresponds with the theme of the upcoming song. For instance, the chapter before It’s Quiet Uptown was about grieving. Every chapter had real, profound, honest thoughts on its theme, as well as real life examples of how that theme applies to real life. Lin wrote that theme, an actor embodies that theme, and the entire cast learned that theme on their journey to stardom. I won’t ruin the surprise from the chapter on It’s Quiet Uptown, but I’ll just say this…many 5 Star books come very close to making me cry.

Heart: Themes or no themes, this book is brimming with inspiration. The idealized way that Lin and Jeremy describe the creative processes of writing and performing just fills me with happiness and makes me want to write like I’m running out of time. They make me feel like I can overcome any challenge, and that the world is my oyster. Hamilton: the Revolution makes me feel as if Lin-Manuel Miranda himself is passing on the creative torch to me and every aspiring artist in the entire country. And with that torch, we can change the world.

Long Story Short

Do I recommend this book? Well, I was going to make the subtitle for this review “10/10 would recommend,” but I thought that recommendation was too light a term. “Would die for them” sounded far more appropriate.

Where To Get this Stuff

Wow, so there’s a lot of stuff to recommend to you this week! Sorry in advance for the ad dump. I’ll place them in order of how much I recommend them.

1.      First off, we have the book I just reviewed, available on Amazon here

2.     Then, there’s the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton in the first place: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I haven’t read this yet, but it’s certainly on my reading list!

3.       Finally, there’s the official Broadway recording. If you’re the kind of person who listens to CDs or downloads music onto your phone, then you can check it out on Amazon here. But if you’re like me and you only ever listen to music when you’re in reach of a computer, then just searching a playlist up on YouTube will do. Remember, the entire play is sung-through, so you don’t miss out on any dialogue or plot points by listening to it.

But please, for the love of chuta, don’t listen to it on shuffle.


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