Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book Review: Love Is a Mix Tape

I love music. Who doesn't, right? I like to think I'm openminded and have a vast array of musical tastes. What I like may not be "good" to some people (looking at you, music snobs!), but hey, I like what I like.

My favorite thing about music is how it can take you back to a time or place, a special memory. This happens to me all the time. For example, "I Need To Know" by Marc Anthony (I know, I am not displaying my good music tastes right off the bat with this pick) reminds me of 9th grade, inside jokes, my mom and football players (remember, Tanya?). Every time I hear "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" by Billy Joel (my all-time favorite performer), I remember being 5 and listening to it on a record player (!!) in the Gurleys' basement. Adam, Ryan and I would play with the speed on the record player to make Mr. William Joel sound like a chipmunk. Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" brings me right back to my 21st birthday, jamming out and dancing in Ter's car on the way to Applebee's. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (Steve Perry!!!) gives me a montage of bar memories.

The best way to bring back memories is a mix CD. Mix CDs chronicled pretty much every year of my life from freshman year of high school until today. I can pick up my "Spring 2006" mix CD and remember how I was feeling second semester of my junior year of college.

But long before the mix CD was the mix tape. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield pays homage to the gloriousness of this invention in his book Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

Sheffield's book uses mix tape playlists to recreate time periods in his life, and mostly to tell the story of his time with his now deceased wife. Each chapter starts with the songs on the mix tape, which he references throughout the chapter. Filled with late '80s and early '90s pop culture references, this book is a pop culture lover's friend.
But even if you're not down with tunes from the times, you will like this book for Sheffield's writing alone. It's humorous and heartwrenching all at the same time. I laughed at the tales of his unconventional counsleors during his time at Catholic summer camp. My heart broke as he described the dismal days after his wife's passing. I was intrigued by his thoughts on Kurt Cobain's death and how it changed a culture, and entertained by his notion that he pictured himself and all girls he dated as part of a boy-girl synth-pop duo. But most of all, I loved how he describes his late wife Renee. He brings her fun, quirky spirit to life. He does such a good job describing her that I feel like I know her; she's someone who I'm sure everyone reading this book wishes they had a chance to know.

This is beautiful, well-written autobiography from a talented entertainment writer. I finished the book inspired and thinking about all the ways music has influenced me and has been interwoven into my life. I highly suggest picking this one up!
Love is a Mix Tape is a Crown Publishing book.

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