The Reading Room: headphones in novels

Very, very occasionally, audio equipment can be romantic, but mostly it's for listening to things and hinting you're not in the mood for talking.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (£7.99, Orion)
A very sweet, but ultimately heart-wrenching young adult novel about two slightly misfit teens falling in love. Title characters Eleanor and Park spend all of their journeys to school sharing a pair of headphones, one earbud each, and the descriptions of those bus rides will make you wish you were 15 again.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (£8.99, Penguin)
The most-famous music nerd novel of them all, but Rob, the narrator, isn’t even the nerdiest character in it. There will always be a place in our hearts for shy shop assistant Dick who first appears “wearing a Sonic Youth T-shirt, a black leather jacket that is trying manfully to suggest it has seen better days, even though he only bought it a year ago, and a Walkman with a pair of ludicrously large headphones that not only obscure his ears but half his face.”

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (£8.99, Harper Collins)
This dystopian sci-fi novel, about a world where books are outlawed, was first published in 1950, at a time when all headphones were as massive as Dick’s. Bradbury did a fairly good job of predicting the earbud style though: “And in her ears the little seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.”

Phonogram Volume Two: The Singles Club by Kieron Gillan and Jamie McKelvie (£9.65, Image)
Phonogram is a series of comic books where music fandom actually makes you magical. Series Two is set entirely over one night in a Bristol indie club. It also contains one of the best depictions of DJ-ing we’ve ever seen on paper. We’ll ignore the male DJ, Seth, because he’s a bit of an arse, but his partner behind the decks, Silent Girl, is the epitome of every cool girl you’ve ever seen across the dancefloor and wanted to be, headphones, record collection and all.

×