Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time

Mix tapes: Stick one into a deck and you’re  transported to another time in your life. For Rob Sheffield, author of Turn Around Bright Eyes that time was one of miraculous love and unbearable grief. A time that spanned seven years, it started when he met the girl of his dreams, and ended when he watched her die

in his arms. Using the listings of fifteen of his favorite mix tapes, Rob shows that the power of music to build a bridge between people is stronger than death. You’ll read these words, perhaps surprisingly, with joy in your heart and a song in your head—the one that comes to mind when you think of the love of your life.


  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (December 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400083036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400083039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
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  1. Started the book somewhat resistantly, because I am grieving my sister’s recent death, and was not sure that I was ready to become involved with a sad subject. Only reason that I went ahead is because I heard that he recently married again (I don’t know if this is true, it’s just what I heard) so at least I felt that no matter how tragic the story was, there was a someday things can be ok out there. Read it cover to cover, stayed up all night to finish it, fell in love with Rob, Renee, and rediscovered my own mix tapes and added lots of new stuff to my iPod. Really great book about dealing with bereavement and it is helping me cope with my own tragedy around my dear sis. I will recommend this book to everyone that I know who loves music.

  2. You either made mix tapes as a kid or you didn’t, and this book speaks to those of us who, though we may have moved on to iPods and ripped CDs, appreciate the emotive power and nostalgia-inducing ability of a customized cassette. [In many cases, we still have those cassettes though lack the means to play them.] Sheffield, a music writer since at least the early 90s (still with Rolling Stone), knows his stuff, and fills this autobiographical account of his love affair with wife Renee with as many pop references as the pages can handle. A beautiful story is woven about the geeky Massachusetts boy’s instant and soulful connection with a loud and extroverted Southerner, originating with their shared interest in music and continuing in that melodic vein until Renee’s timely 1997 death in Rob’s arms (from a pulmonary embolism that hit her in their kitchen while Rob made French toast).

    Sheffield is as deft writing about love as he is about music, which is saying an awful lot; he expertly captures the thrill and helplessness of falling in love, and his worship of Renee is heart-achingly poignant. Anyone who reads this and doesn’t identify with Sheffield’s powerful descriptions of fully giving his heart to another, and of loving someone to the point of fear (of losing oneself, of not being able to keep the other safe enough, of recognizing the other will be on hand to witness your inevitable worst), should leave his current relationship and immediately begin searching for the true “right one.”

    It’s all about the music, though, descriptions of which are shored up by Sheffield’s encyclopedic knowledge of songs and the artists who make them. Mix tapes are described in general (the Break Up tape, the Fall In Love tape, etc.Read more ›

  3. I purchased this book, after little more than a cursory glance at the dust cover info, because of the title. Sheffield shares the essence of his love, loss and journey of healing through a series of mix tapes. The alt music of the 90s isn’t my music, but mix tapes have a universality that transcends time and genre. As someone who has made and received mix tapes, I relate to the careful thought and ordering process behind them, and appreciate their importance. I took great delight in the revelation of Rob and Renee’s relationship through the music that brought them together.

    Sheffield’s writing is crisp and edgy enough to hold your attention. He is never maudlin, yet his despair over his wife’s death is evident. Even though I knew from the beginning of the book that Renee died, I was still stunned when I actually read that chapter. Sheffield evokes such a tangible energy and vibrant personality that I found it incomprehensible that Renee could be dead.

    Love is a Mix Tape serves as much more than a memorial; it is an explosive celebration of life and an affirmation of the power of music to bind people together.

  4. I sat in Lulu’s Beehive this morning with my coffee and banana bundt amongst a sea of laptops, a painting of ducks that looked suspiciously like a picture in my own flickr photostream, and a friend’s ex-boyfriend with another girl I knew but couldn’t place. While I wasn’t the only one with white buds in my ears, I was the only person cracking the spine of a book. The women that kept walking into the cafe were all cleavage and caffeine and cigarettes and a welcome distraction from the chapters about grief in this love letter to music and marriage and life. I kept catching myself staring too long at these ladies and thought, either I need to get laid or get loved.

    Probably both.

    I kind of hate Rob Sheffield for making me feel like all the relationships I’ve had in the past have been inadequate. I have never loved anyone like he loved his Renee. He doesn’t even hide the feelings he had for her in ebullient metaphor or shlocky hyperbole. He just tells it like it is and it is wonderful and amazing and way shorter than it had any right to be. While I did blow through the chapters focused on his loss and his dealing (or not dealing) because I don’t quite have the emotional armor right now to handle more mourning, it’s a beautiful love story all explained in terms I totally get–song lyrics and beats and all the feelings and emotions that we associate with music.

    There’s probably a mix tape of my own that will come out of this that includes “Symptom Finger” by the Faint, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by The Arcade Fire, “Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)” by Feist, “One More Hour” by Sleater-Kinney, “Keeping You Alive” by The Gossip, “Misread” by Kings of Convenience, and “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” by Beck, almost all of which acted as my soundtrack this morning.Read more ›

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