In addition to music, one of my big passions is books. Many of my weekend afternoons are spent at the coffee shop, listening to music and reading. But weirdly, in proportion to other topics, I read surprisingly few books about music. Unless you’re interested in reading about a handful of well-known artists (see the zillion books about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones), it can be hard to track down solid books about indie music. So, I thought I’d start recommending some quality books about music I have found.
To kick things off, I’ll start with what is probably my favorite music-related book: Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. This isn’t a traditional book about music – it doesn’t explore a particular genre or retell the antics of a particular band. Rather, it speaks to the emotional connection between your life and your music that all of us experience.
The book, a memoir of sorts, tells the story of the author, Rob Sheffield, as he meets, marries, and then ultimately loses his love, Renée Crist. And for each chapter, there is a mix tape that accompanies that specific time – maybe a mix tape made to woo the other, or just a tape made to play at summer parties. Anyone that has ever made a mix tape – or even anyone that’s ever had a favorite song – can relate to this format, knowing that just a few lines of a particular song can send memories flooding back.
The book is set in the late 80s and early 90s, and it’s full of the music of that time, both indie and mainstream. It’s a pretty quick read, due in part to its length (a bit over 200 pages) and to the author’s conversational writing style. Be forewarned though – this book is as much about love and loss as it is about music. The story mostly explores how Sheffield deals with Renée’s sudden death, and how a massive loss like that one can completely alter your relationship with certain songs, and perhaps with music altogether. In all honesty, I probably spent the last 50 pages crying.
This is one of those books that I finished in one week, then spent the next week trying to convince everyone I’d ever met to read. It gripped me in a way few books do – perhaps because I saw so much of my own life in Sheffield’s, and saw how quickly that could all change.