11 Benefits of Reading as a Hobby
by Joe Walters
Reading changes my life all the time.
It’s a way for me to see the world differently and to communicate differently and to kick my feet up and breathe and breathe and breathe all at the same time. Reading takes time. We’ve got to fill ours somehow. This relaxing, enriching, and productive hobby might just change your life too, if you let it.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done it much lately or you never really have. All that matters is that you start and you keep going. If you develop a reading habit, you’ll see that the benefits of reading are plentiful.
Or, you could read this list.
Here are 11 benefits of reading that you’ll reap immediately and in the future.
- Reading makes you smarter
“Smarter” might seem like a vague umbrella term–and it kind of is–but only when you overcomplicate it.
At a basic level, becoming smarter than your previous self means that you learn something you didn’t previously know. By reading and then continuing to read, you do this over and over. Some things will stick. Some will not. Over time, you’ll rake in new practical information (may I recommend some mushroom books?!) and use it to communicate better and analyze better in real life. Even if you stick strictly to fantasy books, you’re going to get smarter. But of course, if smarter is your goal, nonfiction books are about as practical as they come.
Don’t get frustrated if you can’t hop into reading and make your brain grow Jimmy Neutron-style right away. Reading and learning takes patience and resilience, but if you build the habit, it will come.
- Reading is a form of guided meditation
You may experience this benefit immediately.
Something is happening in your body and mind. You are circulating. You are sitting still and breathing and engaging the parts of your brain that require focus and retention. If it feels difficult to read or stay in the same mental space, that’s because it is. Like meditation, it takes practice. Once achieved, it can feel like a continuation of breaths of fresh air.
Some people will tell you that reading reduces stress, but stress sucks and I can’t put pressure on the task of reading like that. But I can confirm that sitting quietly and breathing is a very good thing.
- Tired of Netflix? Try a brain-movie!
There are so many ways to entertain yourself at home in the year 2023. Some are outside, some are inside, some are on screens, and yet…
We still get bored.
(Or most of us do).
When you read fiction and narrative nonfiction, you are watching a story unfold on the television screen of your imagination. The images are a combination of the things you know and the things the author is conveying to you, and it appears this way in this exact form only to you.
The benefits of reading stories are endless. Get lost in one; you’ll never know what you’ll find until you do.
Some top fiction & nonfiction book recommendations:
- Horror: Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova (Hardcover | eBook)
- Sci-Fi: I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane (Hardcover | eBook)
- Short Stories: Unshod, Cackling, and Naked by Tamika Thompson (Paperback | eBook)
- Romance: Mid-Flight by Lisa Wilkes (Paperback | eBook)
- Memoir: Laugh Cry Rewind by Judy Haveson (Paperback | eBook)
- It can put you to sleep
Wait! How is a hobby that puts you to sleep anything but boring?
Hear me out…
Sometimes, you want to sleep.
You’re lying in bed and getting stuck in Youtube time-warps until it’s later than you wanted it to be and you have to get up in the morning. Even if you do put the phone down and surrender yourself to the act, it can be hard for your brain to slow down; the blue light from the phone can affect your sleep-wake cycle.
Any 10th grader in an 8 AM English will tell you: Reading can make you sleepy. Regardless of how good a book is, the act of scanning the text and processing what you’re reading is a natural way for your eyelids to start fluttering.
My favorite way to do this is reading nonfiction books (because I can stop midway!) with my Kindle and the bedroom light off. That way, I don’t need to do anything except lower my hand and eyes and I’m off to dreamland.
- You can listen to books while doing chores & other mindless tasks
I do so many dishes. I live in the kitchen sink. While I’m doing them, I wear headphones. But I’m not always in the same mood. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s basketball podcasts, and sometimes it’s audiobooks.
Ever since starting my Audible free trial, I’ve been hooked on audiobooks. I’ve read biographies while brushing baby bottles, bird books while scrubbing too-large pots. Instead of listening to the 24-hour news cycle concerning how the Sixers will let me down this year, I’m learning and giving myself a fun new hobby of looking in the sky in real life to try to figure out what that bird is.
Quick note: I’ve been listening to audiobooks for a couple years now, and I haven’t read a single fiction book! Nonfiction gives me opportunities to miss out on a paragraph or two while I get spacey, and yet I can still understand what in the world is going on. My recommendation is to dive into nonfiction audiobooks as an option for when you’re cleaning and don’t look back.
Here are some of my favorite indie audiobooks of the last couple years:
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall-Kimmerer
- Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger
- In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell
- Books can give you a more complete picture than Google or social media
Want to learn something new? Google is an obvious place to start. Want to get bombarded with opinions and eye-catching graphics about real or not-real content? May I introduce you to [much of the internet]?
You can definitely learn from both Google and social media, but the best way to see the complete picture is by reading a book about it. Turn to experts for your information; read more books.
- Reading is time-consuming and inexpensive (or it can be!)
Our lives are made up of time. We have to fill it somehow.
If you find yourself bored with your regular routine, inject 30 minutes of reading time into it, and you could feel productive and rested by the end of it. When you’re retired or on summer break, reading can fill those long empty days with excitement, enrichment, and meditation.
You can definitely spend a lot of money on books, but you can also get around that pretty easily. The library can be a generous best friend, and your local thrift store or used bookstore can supply you with hours of entertainment for actual quarters. Kindle Unlimited can be a good deal if you read a lot of eBooks.
- Better understand other cultures
Reading promotes empathy. Take a walk in another person’s shoes for a while. Get inside the heads of those who aren’t like you. Understand their priorities. Recognize that you aren’t the only person with a history and a community on the planet. And change the way you view our shared world. Documentaries & films are great at helping you see this. Don’t stop watching them. Just add books too.
- Improve your communication skills
Communication is vital to our relationships, whether fleeting or life-long. If you are a good speaker or writer, you can sustain relationships and achieve many goals along the way.
The more you read, the better you can communicate. I’m not saying you always will–👋 hello, social anxiety!–but I am saying that your vocabulary will increase and you will know more ways to say things with more analogies to convey them. Here’s more on reading to improve communication.
- Get better at your job & make more money
There are nonfiction books out there to help you with most jobs. Business books can be incredibly rewarding and even easy to grapple with. Language can be straightforward and fun on the way to helping you get promoted and make more money. Don’t sleep on this one if you want to get ahead. It could change your life.
Some book recommendations about money:
- Own a Fraction, Earn a Fortune by (eBook | Audiobook)
- Not Your Job by Pierce Brantley (eBook | Audiobook)
- Host Coach by Cullin & Danielle Tate (eBook | Audiobook)
- Sports Betting Down the Bones by Manuel Angela (eBook | Audiobook)
- Reading promotes art and imagination
I obviously like reading for a lot of different reasons, but this is among my favorites. Beyond literally supporting authors and their art with book purchases, readers exercise their creativity by imagining words on the page as images in their mind.
If you have kids, you are showing them that reading is cool too, so you’re promoting imagination that way. Never underestimate the power of monkey see, monkey do! Reading also can make you more creative.
Which benefits of reading did I leave off? Let me know in the comments!
About the Author
Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. He has been a book marketer for Sunbury Press, Paper Raven Books, and Inkwater Press. When he’s not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his novel and trusting the process. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.
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