Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: Love Is A Mix Tape

In late December, I picked up a copy of Rob Sheffield's 2007 autobiographical book Love Is A Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. Rob is a frequent contributing columnist to Rolling Stone magazine and a lover of all kinds of music. Through this book, he details the story of his courtship and marriage to Renee Crist, a fellow DJ and mix tape aficionado. The romantic tale takes a turn, though, as Rob lets us into a very personal time of his life - his dealing with love lost and moving forward after Renee's tragic, untimely death at a very young age.

What I found appealing about Love Is A Mix Tape is how quickly Rob pulled me into his world, using a easy-going, conversational voice to his narrative. It was like you were sitting across the table from him over dinner and he was telling you the story of he and Renee. This made the book one that you want to keep reading and not want to put down. I managed to finish it over the course of a couple nights rather than my usual week plus. As someone who loves a lot of different genres music, I also enjoy how Rob peppered the narrative with lyrical references along with other pop-culture allusions.

And, of course, the use of the mix-tapes (actual tapes from his own personal collection) to frame each chapter was a nice style point too. I would look over the list of songs before starting the chapter, mentally drawing some connections based on artists and titles to see how they might fit. Then I would enjoy what Rob had to say about the songs as they applied to the aspects of his life at the time.

Now, who among us hasn't made mix-tapes some time in their lives? I used to do it all the time back in Junior High, high school and even some in college. Back then I used to tape songs off of the radio or sequence together songs from my 45's and albums to listen to on the tape deck on my stereo, my boom-box or in my car (first an 8-track deck, later a cassette deck). Even today, I do the mix-tape thing a lot with my MP3s - using iTunes to craft together playlists based around themes or Genius-suggested groupings of songs. It is fun and it allows you to occasionally see songs in a different light when juxtaposed with songs by different artists or in different styles.

I strong recommend this book to anyone who loves music as well as anyone who has ever truly been in love. The story will capture your heart, make you think about your own life, and maybe encourage you to dig out an old mix-tape from that shoebox in the back your of the closet or bring up your iTunes to create a new playlist.

You can also follow Rob on Twitter at @robsheff - if you're so inclined. I find his tweets to be both informative and entertaining.

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