MK Asante was born in Zimbabwe to American parents: a mother who led the new nation’s dance company and a father who would soon become a revered pioneer in black studies. But things fell apart, and a decade later MK was in America, a teenager lost in a fog of drugs, sex, and violence on the streets of North Philadelphia.

Buck is a powerful memoir of how a precocious kid educated himself through the most unconventional teachers—outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and mystic strangers, ghetto philosophers and strippers, and, eventually, an alternative school that transformed his life with a single blank sheet of paper.

  "Best of" lists start popping up in November. To ensure that we're sharing the best of the entire year, we've saved our music list for the very last morning of the year.

Will Hermes is a Senior Critic for Rolling Stone, a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered, and the author of Loves Goes To Buildings on Fire.


    In 2008, the musical In The Heights was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won Best New Musical, Choreography, Orchestrations, and Score. It was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and it introduced the world at large to the diverse and impressive talents of its writer, composer, lyricist, and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The writer, composer, actor worked with Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents on the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story - specifically swapping out English lyrics for Spanish in portions of songs sung by the Puerto Rican characters; he performed in the City Center Encores presentation of Merrily We Roll Along in 2012; and he co-wrote the music and lyrics for Bring it On: The Musical - which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best New Musical this past Broadway season.