One book changed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s life. In 2008, Miranda vacationed in Mexico and brought Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton along for some beach reading. Because of the book, which was nominated for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle award, Miranda saw Hamilton as a rapper, according to The New York Times. The book sparked an idea that eventually became Miranda’s hit hip-hop musical Hamilton – a Broadway show that’s so wildly popular that it’s constantly sold out.

Last week, Miranda talked about what he’s currently reading and the works of literature that have inspired him for The NYT‘s By the Book series. Here are just five books that made a difference in his life:


The last book that made him cry


“My wife’s favorite book is Moby-Dick, which I finally read last year. I cried several times — it’s a force.”


The last book that made him laugh


The Rap Year Book, by Shea Serrano, is required reading for hip-hop fans and hip-hop newbies alike. It’s also the funniest thing I’ve read in years.”


His favorite book to teach


Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. Mr. Achebe evokes his world so brilliantly that the last sentence is one of the all-time great gut punches in the history of literature. The kids walk out of the classroom as different people.”


A book that changed his life


“We were assigned Nilda, by Nicholasa Mohr, when I was in sixth grade, and it rocked my world — maybe the first book I’d read about Puerto Ricans growing up in New York, like me. I still think of it whenever I pass through certain parts of East Harlem — I remember experiencing them through Nilda.”


The last great book he read


“The last great book I read was catching up on Saga, the graphic novel series. An incredible world in which to get lost.”