Is Reading Considered a Hobby?

Young woman reading a book as a hobby at a table

Is Reading Considered a Hobby?

When people think of a hobby, their minds often gravitate toward activities that have a clear tangible result. This generally includes things people can see, touch, or otherwise perceive with their senses.

Clearly acceptable examples of this idea are things like woodworking, drawing, sewing, or any number of other things that can be done with your hands. If you create something new that exists in the world, and you do it out of a joy or passion for the making of it, that thing can usually be accepted as a hobby by most.

But what about things you do for pleasure that do not produce a tangible result? Can the thing you enjoy really be considered a hobby if you’re not creating something new?

There is a school of thought that says no, if you do something like playing video games or reading, that’s not a real hobby since you’re not actually doing something by that standard. But whose standards are the defining measure of what constitutes a real hobby?

Take reading for example. Is reading considered a hobby? To an outside observer, it might not look like you’re doing much. Curled up on the couch, swinging on a porch swing, or lying under a tree could hardly be considered activities relating to any hobby for someone who believes more in the idea that a hobby is a form of production.

There is a lot going on when someone is reading, however. The only difference is that it’s not visibly apparent to an outside observer.

By definition, a hobby is an activity someone partakes in out of the simple pleasure of enjoying the activity in their spare time. There is no rulebook that states that a hobby needs to produce a tangible result in ordered to be considered as such.

Because of this, the idea of a hobby being a form of production is an old-fashioned idea that is slowly becoming less prolific in hobbyist communities everywhere. Hobbies that take place in the mind are becoming more and more acceptable, and are being considered more legitimate, over time.

And it has never been a better time to be a reader. With the advent of e-readers and digital book sales, it’s possible to have a complete collection with you all the time, no matter where you are. All you need is your smartphone.

The Benefits of Reading

Reading is a special kind of hobby because it utilizes your brain in completely different ways than other hobbies. While it is a passive activity much like watching television or movies, it differs in critical ways.

For example, reading encourages you to imagine the world of the story for yourself, rather than being shown. Film and TV shows are a great medium for storytelling, but they are limited by their inability to show the viewer the “full picture,” so to speak.

A book will give the reader insight into what goes on in the characters’ minds (depending on the point of view it’s written from of course), details about an environment that couldn’t be communicated with other media, or descriptions of sensations that otherwise would never make an impact on the audience.

With reading, there is no limit to the depth of imagination you can use to paint the scene in your mind. If this is something you’re not very good at yet, reading is sure to improve this skill. If you’re already adept at it, then reading can be the ultimate sensory indulgence.

Even if the description of a place or person isn’t complete in the book, you can stop and think about it on your own, filling in all the extra details that you think would make sense or enhance the story. Television and movies are a one-sided storytelling experience.

With reading, you bring just as much to the story as the writer does.

Reading is also a great hobby because of its ability to facilitate the transmission of ideas from one person to the next across both time and space. By reading the words written by another person hundreds of years ago or just yesterday, there is a sort of one-way telepathic communication happening.

In the words of Stephen King, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Reading is an Inexpensive Hobby

With many hobbies, with enough time and investment in them, they will inevitably become very expensive to maintain. Playing guitar, drawing, painting, or even home improvement might start out cheaply, but if the hobbyist ever hopes to advance beyond the beginning stages of the craft, they’re going to have to spend some money – and in some cases, a lot!

With reading, this is not the case. Books are, by and large, quite inexpensive, and there is no system that determines that a book is more expensive the longer you’ve been reading. Many e-books can be found for free, and if you’re near to a local book shop, there is no shortage of used books or ones that have been discarded from libraries.

If you don’t have the space to collect physical books, and you don’t have access to an e-reader, there’s always your local library as well. Library cards are free, and most libraries have extensive selections of books of all kinds – fiction, non-fiction, encyclopedias, atlases, and all manner of others.

Reading Flexes Your Thinking Muscles

Another benefit of reading as a hobby is its ability to expand your vocabulary. By reading books that are at or above whatever level you may be, you are likely to encounter words you’ve never seen before, or words you’ve seen but never understood.

If you’re reading a paperback or hardcover book, you can usually pick up on a word’s meaning through context. If you’re reading on an e-reader, highlighting a word will often bring up the dictionary definition of it. This will allow you to learn on the fly as you read, and prepare your mind for even more complex passages.

The simplicity of reading as a hobby is also a great benefit. Where someone who doesn’t read as a hobby might only see a wall of text, an avid reader can see excitement and opportunity. A long string of words is no longer just text on a page – it’s a gateway into other worlds and other ways of thinking.

Reading is also a great hobby for broadening one’s perspective. By utilizing the power of the written word, an individual can gain perspective and knowledge across decades, generations, and even centuries.

In fact, many modern political philosophies are based on the reasonings of politicians that are thousands of years old. That isn’t to say that we follow the same ideologies completely, but the power of reading cannot be denied when people who lived thousands of years apart can be said to have shared the same ideas, morals, and ideals for how the world should be.

It speaks to the basic humanity in all of us in that, at the end of the day, we all strive for the same things.

Enjoy Peace and Quiet

But reading doesn’t have to be all big ideas and lofty goals either. It can simply be a quiet afternoon in a sunny spot, taking in a pulpy fiction story. There is nothing wrong with high-concept philosophical musings, and there is equally nothing wrong with cheesy romance novels.

Some people call these “junk food for your brain,” but where is the drawback? Unlike real junk food, which carries actual physical problems, pulp fiction has no such effect. In other words, you can have just as good a time with one as you can with the other.

Reading’s Long-Term Benefits

Yet another benefit of reading as a hobby is its ability to slow or prevent cognitive decline as you age. The brain is a muscle, and the more it is used, the stronger it becomes. Regular physical exercise is a great way to prevent all manner of physical ailments, and the same goes for your brain. Reading is a great regular exercise you can do for your mind that will always be a benefit.

In addition, being exposed so much of other people’s ideas can also be a great catalyst for developing empathy. By reading a book written from the perspective of someone from a different demographic, skin color, economic situation, or gender, you might develop an understanding of what a person in that situation is going through as it compares to your own.

You might learn of something new to strive for in your own life, or learn to appreciate what you already have.

So, is Reading Considered a Hobby?

Reading absolutely counts as a great hobby, regardless of whether or not there is a tangible thing that results from it. It can be argued that instead, there are a number of abstract, intangible benefits.

You can be exposed to new ideas, broaden your vocabulary and your world view, and as far as hobbies go, reading is one of the most inexpensive and accessible ones around. There is never a bad time to start, and the possibilities are endless.

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