Book Review: Love is a Mix Tape-Life and Loss, One Song at a Time

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Just what is love? Philosophers, poets and song writers have been asking that question since the beginning of time. To music journalist Rob Sheffield, love is a mix tape. The author has chronicled the cross section of music and love in debut book called Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

Long before people downloaded music into their smart phones or other hand-held listening devices with their favorite music, they made mix tapes. Mix tapes were very personal. Not only did they reveal some of our favorite songs, they also revealed our hopes, desires and thoughts. Mix tapes were therapy on a magnetic strip.

Rob Sheffield is no different from every music obsessed Generation X-er. A total music geek, he found solace and a reason for being through his love of music. Starting as a young child, he DJ-ed at school dances, collected albums and tapes like baseball cards and debated the merits of different bands with his friends.

In the late 1980s, Sheffield met Renee. Renee couldn’t have been more different from Rob. He was tall; she was short. He was a shy geek from Boston. Renee was an extroverted Southerner. The only thing these two seemed to have in common was an intense love of music, and it seemed music was all they needed. The two soon fell in love and were married until Renee’s untimely death from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 31.

Sheffield deftly writes about his all too brief marriage to Renee and he does this with a catalog of different mix tapes he made. Each chapter starts with a different mix tape, complete with the names of songs and artists. Some tapes are for making out, some for dancing and some for falling asleep. Sheffield proves to be no music snob, mixing top-40 guilty pleasure pop with the alternative music of the 1980s and 1990s. Each lovingly crafted mix tape conveys an intricate detail of the sometimes loving, sometimes rocky, and all-too-human relationship between two very interesting and complex souls.

Love is a Mix Tape had me riveted. Sheffield is an amazing writer, handling his love of music and his love of Renee with tender loving care. He gives an intimate glimpse into his marriage without revealing too many intimate details. The marriage of Rob and Renee is never conveyed in a way that is too saccharine or maudlin. These are two very real people who seemed to leap off the page. Often when men write about the women in their lives they do it more as a reflection of their own egos rather than writing about these women as three-dimensional human beings. Sheffield does not fall into this trap. I really felt I knew Renee. In fact, I wish I knew Renee. She was an Appalachian Auntie Mame who told her husband to “Live, live, live!” and tells the reader to do the same.

And even though I began reading Love is a Mix Tape knowing of Renee’s death, I was still very shocked when it happened. How could this ebullient soul not be cavorting somewhere on the planet? And Sheffield’s grief was so palpable I felt a dull ache in my heart as he described existing as a young widower.

I highly recommend Love is Mix Tape to anyone who considers music as vital as breathing and knows only too well the ecstasy and heartbreak true love can bring. Rob Sheffield has written an amazing book. I hope he has more books in him.

To learn more about Rob’s affiliation to write about love and music please check out my review of his book Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke.

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Book Reviews:The Irresistible Introvert-Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World by Michaela Chung

25898753_iiMy fellow book lovers, does any of the following sound familiar?

“You need to participate more in class.”
“You’re too quiet. Speak up!”
“Get out more! Socialize! Stop being such a hermit.”
“What do you mean you’re leaving early? The fun is just beginning!”

If you’ve heard these phrases countless times, most likely you are an introvert, as am I. And so is Michaela Chung, introvert coach, writer, entrepreneur and now the author of The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World.

The Irresistible Introvert is a mix of memoir, manifesto and self-help that combines Chung’s personal struggles with introversion, celebrates the unique traits of introversion and finally, offers sound advice on how to navigate both the professional and personal realm as introvert in a society that favors extroverts.

There is a myth that introverts aren’t as cool or as interesting as extroverts. Chung blows this myth out of the water by relaying her story of selling her belongings so she could travel the world. I’d love to sit down with her and listen to her globe-trotting adventures. Furthermore, we could bond over our love of dancing, salsa dancing for her, belly dancing for me.

But Chung also shares a lot of the pain and confusion she dealt with as an introvert. She often felt out of sorts with her most extroverted peers. Teachers would admonish her with the ideas that introverts are withdrawn, anti-social and depressed. At times, she felt over-whelmed and over-stimulated by the outside world, which she thought made her deeply flawed.

While reading these passages, I couldn’t help but nod my head in introverted alliance with Chung. Like, her I thought I was horribly flawed because of my introverted nature. It’s only in the past few years, I’ve been able to feel comfortable with being an introvert, and even celebrate it a bit in my quiet and discreet manner.

Throughout the Irresistible Introvert Chung discusses things that affect many introverts such as clutter, noise and being overwhelmed on making certain decisions. I know for myself, I am often overwhelmed by huge parties, crowds (I avoid Black Friday because of this), obnoxious speaking voices, and open office spaces hinder my ability to produce and work productively. Introverts need to be aware of these issues, and using the ebb and flow of our introverted energy to cope with these things as we face them. Fortunately, there are practical tips in Chung’s book that helps us do just that. And these tips also reminded me of some things I do personally when I feel over-whelmed like deep breathing and meditation, exercise and escaping into my favorite solo activities after a rather busy, challenging day like baking, reading or crafting.

Now what about being an Irresistible Introvert? How do we go about doing that? Well, one way is just by accepting our introversion, and cherishing and celebrating those introverted traits that make us interesting, lovable and charming. Let’s face it; despite introversion being a bit more understood that it was as little as five years ago, extroversion is still considered ideal. We live in world where so many people are clamoring for attention whether it be through social media, reality TV or by never shutting up, talking about topics that are totally TMI on a multitude of topics-sex, families, work, money and political persuasions.

It’s all so maddening and obnoxious. And perhaps this is where being an introvert is a plus, not a minus. Let’s harness our more quiet, thoughtful and mysterious qualities and softly shine them into the world. It just might be a very welcome reprieve.

Throughout Chung gives practical advice that help introverts navigate the world both professionally and personally. She has down-to-earth advice on shedding the mask of introversion, using one’s energy to achieve positive engagements, the best communication skills for introverts, establishing intimacy comfortable for introverts and a lot more. This practical advice includes both verbal and non-verbal communication.

The Irresistible Introvert is written in a down-to-earth and charming manner. Not quite as thorough as Susan Cain’s iconic book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Chung’s book is still a worthwhile read for both introverts and the extroverts who love them.