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Even more remarkable is the music, which harmonises several worlds that rarely collide: 18th-century history, musical theatre and hip-hop. When Mr Miranda first proposed his plans to combine his unlikely passions, few believed he could pull it off. Daveed Diggs pictured , an accomplished rapper who steals his scenes as Lafayette in the first act and Jefferson in the second, concedes he was sceptical, too.

Yet both of them—and many others—swiftly climbed aboard the moment they heard Mr Miranda perform what would become the first number of the show. He swiftly agreed to be a historical adviser throughout the project. Some have been surprised to learn that this musical form is all about lyrical dexterity, about elevating vernacular speech into rhyming, rapid-fire verse.

Against all expectations, it feels natural for these characters to talk this way, despite their period costumes. Mr Miranda pulls this off by supplying them with perfectly chiselled lyrics that are dramatic, erudite and cool all at once. They pulse with internal rhymes and reveal ever more detail each time you listen to them. A perfectionist, he worked at these songs for six years and was still tinkering after the show opened on Broadway. The cast recording, released digitally in September, is the first to top the charts as both a Broadway cast album and a rap album. It has also won millions of fans who may never reach Broadway, but who can at least find each other on social media.

Rolling Stone , the San Francisco magazine, recently named it one of the best albums of the year. Yet there is something about this moment that has made this show feel especially relevant. This is an optimistic message. It also presents a more inclusive, more multicultural vision of what America always was and what it should be.

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As Americans struggle to compose the next few bars, some are finding inspiration in the notes coming from Broadway. By Jonathan Haslam. A detailed appraisal of how the Soviet Union handled undercover operations from the communist revolution in until the end of the cold war.

The most gripping chapters focus on the chaos that was unleashed by Josef Stalin. By Robert Putnam. The most important divide in America today is class, not race, and the place where it matters most is in the home. By Daniel Tudor and James Pearson. Ghettoside: Investigating a Homicide Epidemic. By Jill Leovy. A study of one neighbourhood in Los Angeles has the power to change how people think about policing in America. By David Maraniss.

Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War. By Susan Southard. By Bernard Cornwell. A great and terrible story of a battle that was fought years ago, told with energy and clarity by a writer who has a deep understanding of men in combat and why they do what they do. By Eugene Rogan. How a multinational Muslim empire was destroyed by the first world war, by a historian of the 20th century who is director of the Middle East Centre at Oxford University.

By Timothy Snyder. A historian at Yale University has made a detailed study of where Jews were in most danger during the second world war. In France and Italy, three-quarters of the Jews survived. By Mary Beard. She shows that the key to its dominance was granting citizenship to so many people. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. By Sven Beckert.

By Brian Seibert. How tap-dancing entertained many, even as it had clear racist overtones. By Dominic Lieven. How Russia went to war. A gripping, poignant and in some respects revolutionary contribution to European history by a distinguished British scholar who is descended from several of the protagonists he describes. Kissinger: The Idealist, By Niall Ferguson. The magisterial first instalment of a two-part biography about a man who towered over American foreign policy for more than two decades, and still divides opinion as no one else does.

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot. By Mark Vanhoenacker. A highly readable account, as moving as it is unexpected, of what flying means, by an airline pilot with a gift for words. Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life. By Jonathan Bate. It is hard to write a literary account of Ted Hughes without writing about the life, as many authors have found.

By Andrea Wulf. His ideas are as relevant today as they ever were. Governments have trillions of dollars in assets, from companies to forests, but they are often poorly managed. Two investment experts explain how things could be improved by ring-fencing assets from political meddling in independent holding companies. Professional managers could sweat them as if they were privately owned. By John Kay. If the world is to avoid future banking collapses, or at least limit their economic impact, people need to think clearly about what the finance sector is for.

This book does the job. Inequality: What Can Be Done? By Anthony Atkinson. A crunchy book that analyses policy discussions in detail but avoids dullness, thanks to its unapologetic support for robust government intervention. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics.

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By Richard Thaler. By Dani Rodrik. Economists still have a lot of explaining to do. Dani Rodrik reassures those outside the profession of the helpfulness of economists, and also removes some of the wishful thinking from his colleagues. By Andrew Zimbalist. Any country thinking of hosting an international sporting jamboree should read this book to see what a bad deal the IOC and FIFA seek to foist on them. Hamburg has just voted against bidding for the Olympic games.

Clever move. The Road to Character. By David Brooks. A thoughtful polemic on why the self-regarding Facebook generation should move from narcissism to thoughtfulness. By Anne-Marie Slaughter. Why organisations will have to change radically to make work-life balance a reality, by a respected foreign-policy expert who left her high-octane government job to spend more time with her two teenage sons. A rational, well-argued call to arms.

Move over Sheryl Sandberg.

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Between the World and Me. By Ta-Nehisi Coates. By Ian Bostridge. He knows every last nuance of the work and his book offers many fresh insights that will inform the enjoyment of both old admirers and newcomers to the music. Plucked: A History of Hair Removal. By Rebecca Herzig.

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Only one seeks to remove it. A curious account of hair-erasing, and why people have tried clamshell razors, lasers, lye depilatories, tweezers, waxes, threading and electrolysis to try and free themselves from hairiness. Self-enhancement or oppression? Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio. By Misha Glenny. How Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, better known as Nem of Rocinha, became a drug-dealer after his daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease and he needed the cash—and how he eventually took over an entire Brazilian shantytown. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.

By Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner. A scientific analysis of the ancient art of divination which shows that forecasting is a talent; luckily it can be learned. You need a healthy appetite for information, a willingness to revisit predictions in light of new data, and the ability to synthesise material from sources with very different outlooks on the world. By Steve Silberman. How a widely contested condition grew out of conflicts between Nazi psychiatrists anxious for career advancement. The descriptions of how autistic children were treated in the 20th century is especially shocking.

Winner of the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. By Nick Lane. A persuasive and demanding attempt, by a thought-provoking British scientist, a biochemist at University College London, to answer some of the most fundamental questions in biology. It posits a new theory of how life came to be. By Jerry Kaplan. An intriguing, insightful and well-written look at how modern artificial intelligence, powering algorithms and robots, threatens jobs and may increase wealth inequalities, by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and AI expert.

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By Matt Parker. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. By Carlo Rovelli. Translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre. A startling and illustrative distillation of centuries of science by an Italian theoretical physicist. By Fred Pearce. A carefully researched, analytical look at the effects that new species have on different environments into which they are introduced. The book debunks poor science and the cherry-picking of statistical examples to feed hysteria about keeping invasive species out and protecting an imaginary perfect past.

Adventures in Human Being.

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By Gavin Francis. A Scottish doctor, once the medical officer on a British research mission near the South Pole, takes a delightful journey closer to home, through the wondrous human body, from top to tail, inside to out. By Helen Scales. A marine biologist-turned-science writer describes coming face-to-shell with a giant clam on the Great Barrier Reef, enjoying a bag of smoked oysters in Gambia and meeting a sea-silk seamstress in Italy.

She makes an impassioned and convincing argument that, contrary to expectations, molluscs have much to teach us. How to Talk about Videogames. By Ian Bogost. Some say video games are the great sport of the 21st century, the summit of art and entertainment.

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Others call them mindless. Meditative essays on the meaning of gaming, by a game designer and professor of interactive computing. A Brief History of Seven Killings. By Marlon James. Violent, lurid, scabrous, hilarious and beautiful, this novel teems with life, death and narrators. The Fishermen. By Chigozie Obioma. A lyrical retelling of the Cain-and-Abel story in which four Nigerian brothers play truant from school, go fishing and meet a soothsayer who predicts that one brother will kill another.

Not yet 30, Chigozie Obioma is a writer to watch. Seiobo There Below. By Laszlo Krasznahorkai. Translated by Ottilie Mulzet. A fitting winner of the Man Booker International prize. By Michel Houellebecq. No other French novelist knows how to stir trouble quite like Michel Houellebecq. This account of France under Muslim rule is set in A Little Life. By Hanya Yanagihara. It has divided critics, but readers love it. Hypnotic despite its length and considerable flaws. By Jessie Greengrass. Restraint and a formal writing style, by a philosophy graduate from Cambridge University, give a tone of melancholy to this spectacularly accomplished, chilly debut collection of short stories about thwarted lives and opportunities missed.

The strongest are also the most ordinary. The Story of the Lost Child. By Elena Ferrante. Translated by Ann Goldstein. This four-volume narrative, with all its operatic overtones, is a tribute to feminism and female friendship in midth-century Naples. Sign of the times. Collectors, dealers and museum curators have been flocking to Havana.

The re-establishment of diplomatic ties between America and the Caribbean island in earlier this year mean that interest in Cuban art can only grow. They are more associated with modernist painting, performance art and queer art, respectively, than with their homeland. The revolution and the ensuing embargo isolated Cuba.

But its rich national art school in Havana, the Instituto Superior de Arte ISA , continued to produce artists of talent, who were admired for their technical skill and background. But such incidents were rare. During this time the Havana Biennial, established by the Ministry of Culture and the Wifredo Lam Centre of Contemporary Art in , abandoned its roots as a bastion of non-Western art, and became a high street for collecting tourists. Peter and Irene Ludwig, well-known German collectors, wanted to create a museum in Havana in the special period, but found conditions inhospitable.

Instead their foundation gives grants to Cuban artists and has been instrumental in connecting those who grew up in the special period with the outside world. Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, whose family fled Cuba when she was a teenager and who is now known for her foundation in Miami, also takes groups of collectors to Havana.

Some collectors, such as Howard Farber, buy Cuban art in anticipation of a payday. In he put up for auction at Philips in London a collection of Chinese contemporary art, which he had assembled cheaply from the late s onwards. Mr Farber started collecting Cuban art in in a similar way. Yoan Capote makes ambitious sculptures with Cuban twists, most recently a series of seascapes that use thousands of fish hooks instead of paint. The ones who stand out are shown in New York. Another New York dealer, Sean Kelly, points out that the ISA has long turned out artists of great technical ability; with the opening up of Cuba, the most successful will be those who also use their skills conceptually to project a unique voice.

For the past decade he has represented an energetic group, Los Carpinteros, who make humorous odes to Cuban shoddiness with installations, sculptures and drawings. Work by Jorge Pardo, an architect and sculptor, will be at the Petzel Gallery. Strap in, then, because the storm seems only to be picking up.

IN A superb biography, Andrea Wulf makes an inspired case for Alexander von Humboldt to be considered the greatest scientist of the 19th century. Certainly he was the last great polymath in a scientific world which, by the time he died in Berlin in , aged 89, was fast hardening into the narrow specialisations that typify science to this day.

Yet in the English-speaking world, Humboldt is strangely little-known. That is partly because polymaths are out of fashion. But it is also because Humboldt suffers, given the legacy of two world wars, from having been German. In thousands marched in Ohio to celebrate his centenary. Fifty years later German books were burnt in a huge public bonfire in Cleveland, while in Cincinnati Humboldt Street was renamed after that mediocre president, William Howard Taft.

But always Humboldt was consumed by Fe rnweh , a longing for distant places. A cold and distant mother his father had died when he was young had strict ideas about what it meant to be a member of the Prussian elite. He is growing invulnerable to any act of will or stubborn bravado. Were they ever a threat? The third sword resists bonding with its chosen wielder out of time, but the Watcher has waited long enough. When that time comes, his Volgath will be exacted.

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