Most of us occasionally think, ‘Wow, I really need a new hobby.’ But figuring out how to get started with a new pastime feels easier said than done. Researching potential hobbies on the internet provides you with generic lists of things to try, but it won’t offer the deep dive you really need to determine whether a given pastime is a good fit.
Books, on the other hand, give you an in-depth look into the hobby you’re exploring, and often provide plenty of ideas on how to make your way from novice to pro (and enjoy the process along the way). Not sure where to start? These eight hobbies are crowd favorites.
The sheer number of cookbooks dedicated to bread, pastries, and other baked goods can feel overwhelming. But all you need to begin a baking hobby is one trusty manual. “A few years back, a friend gave me her copy of the book Flour Water Salt Yeast, which is an artisan bread making book by Ken Forkish,” explains fantasy author S. G. Prince. “I've been hooked ever since.”
If you’re looking to get started with bread specifically, you might try Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson, or Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Bread. For aspiring baking generalists, Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything is a great book to bake your way through.
2. Investing and personal finance
Whether you’re looking to clean up your budget or make a little money on the side with day trading, there’s a wealth of money-focused books. If you’re just getting started with finances, something like I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is a good pick, along with Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. You might even try the classic Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki. For those looking to get started with trading, reviewers say Investing QuickStart Guide by Ted D. Snow is an excellent place to start.
3. Dog training
“In 2018, I found a book called The Loved Dog by Tamar Geller during a library sale,” says Yvonne McArthur, a writer and author. “It caught my eye because I like dogs, and it's all about how to train your dog in a loving way. Thanks to that book, training my dog has been a lot of fun. I try to teach my dog something new every month or two and it keeps us both engaged.”
The payoff, according to McArthur, has been huge. “Being able to train my dog properly has meant that we've gone on lots of adventures together, including hiking a 13,000-foot volcano, going on a 6-day camping trip with my family, and exploring the countryside by motorcycle.” If you’ve recently gotten a pandemic puppy of your own, consider two other dog-training standbys: Lucky Dog Lessons by Brandon McMillan and The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.
Many people find making things with their hands to be therapeutic and fun. If you’re looking for a hands-on guide to knitting, something like The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe is a beginner favorite. For those who are intermediate-to-advanced, Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter's Almanac is a classic.
Once you’re settled on a project, find something listen to while you work up your stitches, like The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting by Alanna Okun or At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.
Gardening has long been a popular hobby, and whether you want to grow flowers, vegetables, or something else entirely, there’s no shortage of how-to books on developing a green thumb. Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein, Julie Chai, and Michele M. Waite is a complete guide to growing, harvesting, and arranging seasonal blooms, while Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung and Rosemary Gladstar tells you everything you need to know to start your very own herb garden. For a guide to keeping plants alive indoors, try Bring the Outdoors In by Shane Powers, Jennifer Cegielski, and Gentl & Hyers.
6. Camping and camp cooking
If spending time in the great outdoors is a priority, camping might be the right hobby for you. For an overview of things to know before your first camping trip, read Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury, or Camping for Dummies by Michael Hodgson.
As the author of several books on the health benefits to moving a lot in nature, Katy Bowman, author of Grow Wild, is a camping aficionado. “But one of the things that kept pulling us inside was meal times. This is when we decided to set up a simple outdoor kitchen, a fancy term for a fire pit,” she says. “I knew about the obvious camp-out foods, but these wouldn't be adequate to feed us all the time.” That led Bowman to discover cookbooks dedicated to campfire cooking, such as The Campout Cookbook: Inspired Recipes for Cooking Around the Fire and Under the Stars by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson. “Not only did this become my new hobby, but it's also blossomed into a lot of community time,” Bowman says. “We do fire pit Top Chef parties where everyone participates in cooking good food — there's so much more to fire cooking than s'mores!”
7. Meditation and mindfulness
Going inward is one of the best ways to reduce stress and get to know yourself better, and there are so many books about different styles of meditation and mindfulness and their benefits. If you’ve ever tried the Headspace app, you might enjoy The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe, which is all about how mindfulness can change your life in 10 minutes a day. If you’re looking for more of a mindfulness life makeover, try Dan Harris’ 10% Happier. Or, if you want to get more into the nitty-gritty of how meditation works before getting started, listen to Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning, which digs into how to hack your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin levels.
8. Healthy cooking and eating
There’s so much to learn about diet and nutrition, it can seem like a tall order to get started with a healthy food hobby. When book blogger Julianne Buonocore wanted to experiment with vegan eating, she was overwhelmed and confused every time she went to the cafeteria at work or the grocery store. “So I devoured as many vegan books and cookbooks as possible, and started cataloging recipes and tips and tricks on my phone,” she explains. “The Scribd app was especially helpful for this type of learning, as I could easily search and scroll through a bunch of cookbooks quickly to find what I liked, without having to buy the books myself.” From Vegan Meal Prep Cookbook to Compassionate Cuisine, there are hundreds of vegan cookbooks on Scribd. And, if you’re interested in healthy eating in general, check out popular audiobooks on nutrition like Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s The Plant Paradox, The Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, or Keto Diet for Beginners by Timothy Moore.