In Other Words: Love Is a Mixtape

In Other Words: Love Is a Mixtape

This memoir explores the complexities of having loved and lost through music.
Published: March 31, 2022 | Updated: September 30th, 2022 at 4:53 pm
Cassette player on a table outside
Sheffield prefers to listen to music on cassettes because they remind him of his late wife.

In Other Words is The NewsHouse’s biweekly book review. Contributors Ashley Clemens and Chloe Langerman cover everything from fantasy to modern fiction to memoirs. At the end of their reviews, they’ll share a recording of their favorite passage from each book.


“Love Is a Mixtape” by Rob Sheffield is, as the title describes, a love letter to music. More importantly, though, it is Sheffield’s dedication to his late wife, Renée.

From the beginning of the memoir, Sheffield makes it clear that the story follows his relationship with his wife, Renée, her death and the aftermath. This makes every chapter achingly bittersweet, knowing that the two shared a beautiful relationship that came to a sudden end.

Sheffield’s storytelling style is very anecdotal, which gives the impression that the reader knows facets of the people depicted in the memoir that they may not know otherwise. Small details about Renée, such as her favorite band, humanize her and make her relatable. There are parts of her that could belong to anyone’s best friend, mother or sister.

Each chapter begins with a mixtape of songs that Sheffield listened to during that period of his life. Whenever a new song and accompanying memory was mentioned, I often looked it up to hear it for myself and to understand the emotions he had associated with it.

Sheffield also explains his affinity for cassettes over any other mode of listening to music because they are how he feels connected to Renée and her memory. This made me consider what kind of material objects I value and what they mean to me. I often feel connected to tangible items like books because they remind me of where I was and how I was feeling when I was reading one.

After Renée’s death, Sheffield goes into depth about his experience with grief. For him, it was simultaneously all-consuming and empty, and he had to work to pull himself out of his sadness. Sheffield’s feelings of grief and his comparison of himself to Jackie Kennedy were the strongest and most heartbreaking parts of the memoir for me.

While I enjoyed the many stories and songs Sheffield shared throughout the 224 pages, I do feel like I was left wanting more at the end. I yearned to hear more about Sheffield’s life after Renée and how he still feels connected to her even though she’s gone. However, “Love is a Mixtape” still uniquely portrays how songs and emotion intertwine, making this book perfect for both the playlist aficionado and any casual music listener.

In other words, 4/5.