It's now part of my job to field a lot of questions from new Hamilfans who have finally listened to the Hamilton cast album or went in cold to see the show and now want to know more, more, more. Did everything in Hamilton really happen? What's the General talking about when he says he led his men straight into a massacre? Did Angelica really fall in love with Hamilton first? Was Charles Lee really that much of a dick?
To which I say, get your education! I've been scamming for every book I can get my hands on since I first caught the Hamilton bug in 2015. And there's a million things I haven't read—seriously, there are seemingly infinite books about the Revolutionary War era, the founding years of the United States, and the lives of our beloved cast of characters (as well as those who didn't make it into the musical—we'll get to you soon enough, John Adams.)
While I could give you a library's worth of recommendations all at once, let's parcel them out a few at a time so no one gets overwhelmed. I'm assuming you've read the Ron Chernow Hamilton biography as well as the Hamiltome already, so here's the first installment beyond those: books that offer both a broader overview and a more in-depth discussion of the events that took place in Hamilton—basically a big old pile of CONTEXT for your nightstand reading pile.
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
I love the way Ellis structures this book: instead of working chronologically, he focuses on specific moments or issues facing the major players in the Revolution and discusses each in neat, self-contained chapters: The Duel, The Dinner, and The Farewell, for example. By looking at these events in detail on their own, he makes the bigger picture a lot easier to tie together as a whole. (Ellis has taken this approach with some of other books too, but this is the one I think you should read first.)
1776 by David McCullough
"Right Hand Man" might be a five-and-a-half-minute song, but it encompasses (and compresses) a ton of action into that time—like, the entirety of Washington's failed campaign to secure New York City in 1776 and his subsequent hiring of Hamilton as aide-de-camp the following year. Spoiler alert! Burr wasn't really in the room where it happened then. This book starts with the siege of Boston in late 1775 and takes us the whole way through the high drama of the year, culminating in Washington's high-stakes Christmas Day trip across the Delaware to kick British—well, mostly Hessian—ass.
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
Well, if you liked the Hamilton biography, why not go deep into another Chernow monster? Washington indeed had a Capital-L Life and was present or relevant to virtually every moment of the founding of the new republic, so you'll get a lot to chew on here. Honestly, I think this is a better written book than the Hamilton biography, and though it covers some of the same territory, it offers a slightly different perspective, since it's relating to Washington's life instead of Ham's.
Bonus Book! Taverns of the American Revolution by Adrian Covert
If you live along the Eastern seaboard and you have a jones for visiting historical places, pick this little volume up. It lists 171 surviving taverns from the Revolutionary era and spotlights about 20 of those that you can still visit—whether in use as restaurants, museums, or offices—today. From the venerable City Tavern in Philadelphia to my dear Fraunces Tavern in New York to the Colonial Inn in Concord, Mass., it's a fun read for history and travel nerds.
(PS: I know, I know, the following books are all written by old white men. Yes, the preponderance of writing on this subject is done by them, and I promise you that we'll get to women in the sequel—no, for real. I wouldn't recommend a book just because a woman wrote it, nor would I not suggest a book just because it was written by a white guy.)