I never understood the idea that reading isn’t a hobby. While I get that for many people the experience of reading came from being forced to do it at school with books that were outdated, uninteresting, or otherwise just not a great choice. The idea that people read for fun throws some people off, and the idea that it’s not just possibly entertainment but an actual hobby is, unfortunately, head scratching for some.
Reading is 100% a hobby assuming the person doing it is doing it for relaxation, enjoyment, or non-labor related reasons. This makes reading fiction in particular a hobby, though the lines can blur in some cases when it comes to non-fiction.
This is an interesting topic, because if I’m breaking down my own reading habits you could very easily make the argument that half of the reading I do would count as a hobby but the other half would not.
How can this be? Well let’s dive into it!
Reading As A Hobby Vs Reading That’s Not A Hobby
First, we’ll state the obvious here: work related reading isn’t a hobby. If I’m reading emails from a freelance client or a training guide, that’s not hobby reading in any way, shape, or form, but I don’t think anyone is making the argument that it is. So we will apply a bit of common sense there when dividing the two types of reading.
First, the definition of “Hobby” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
A pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Aside from learning that a hobby is a small old world falcon, which is cool, that gives us the parameters for looking at reading and most of the time the reading will be pretty easy to figure out.
- Reading ESPN to follow your favorite sports team? Hobby.
- Reading a training manual for how to operate a new piece of work equipment or machinery? Not Hobby.
- Reading the newest Clive Cussler or Dean Koontz work of fiction? Hobby.
- Forced reading of Ayn Rand for a college course? Not Hobby.
Most situations are pretty cut and dry, but what about ones that maybe aren’t? Depending on the situation, you could argue that reading history books and historical non-fiction is hobby, not hobby, or gray area.
If it’s for high school or college, not a hobby. If it’s because you’re also a fellow history buff, it’s a hobby because that’s the type of reading you enjoy. But what about someone like Dan Carlin (The podcast Hardcore History is the best thing ever for history fans) who loved history and studied it because of interest/enjoyment but then ended up making a living out of it?
Is it still a hobby at that point, or only if he’s not preparing a show about it?
This is an interesting question if we’re really getting into the weeds on this question of what type of reading counts as being a hobby and what reading does not. When I look at most of my reading the past two years the majority of books were in one of two categories: Self/Skill Improvement or Fiction.
Do the Self-Improvement books or the Skills books count as hobby reading? I honestly don’t see why not. They might not be entertainment the same way that fiction is, but there are plenty of hobbies that involve work and production. Creating models, running, gardening, woodworking, painting – all are classic examples of this.
When I’m reading books about how to install off-grid solar systems in order to learn how to do that work or blog about it, those do not count as hobby reading. But everything else I would say does. I’m choosing to read self-improvement books not to blog or produce, but because that’s the content I want to absorb. That’s what I want to read and the positive benefits of that are just the results of the reading hobby.
At least that is my take on it, and I think based on the definition of hobby it’s a very defensible one.
Books I’ve read (or re-read) the past three months I’d consider hobby reading:
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury
- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
- The Path of the Warrior Mystic by Angel Millar
- Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- Ticktock by Dean Koontz (one of my all-time favorite pleasure reads)
- Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler
- Sahara by Clive Cussler
- Atomic Habits by James Clear (one of the most important modern books ever written, IMO)
- Rise of a Merchant Prince by Raymond Feist
- About half The Dresden Files books, all by Jim Butcher (again, and again, and in some cases again, and again, and again)
Books I’ve read the past three months I would not consider hobby reading:
- Off-Grid Solar Power Simplified
- DIY Solar Power: How To Power Everything From The Sun by Micah Toll
- Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone (Audiobook I’ve conditioned myself to “work sprinting” whenever it’s playing in my headphones)
- Multiple technical solar power guides
Final Verdict: Is Reading A Hobby?
For many people, reading is a hobby as it is an enjoyable way to spend free time for entertainment, enjoyment, and relaxation. It’s a hobby that gives many benefits and has an unusually high ability to benefit many areas of life, or even transform a life, as opposed to other hobbies. While not every type of reading might fall under this umbrella, for most of us, any free reading could rightly be considered a hobby and one that has plenty of benefits to boot.
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