Surveys that ask, “What are your hobbies?” have given me the chills for years. Other people always seemed to have interesting hobbies like skydiving or ghost hunting or ferret racing, so I often embroidered the truth and listed activities such as making jewelry or writing poetry or studying astronomy as ways I spent my free time.
I’m finally past such futile lies because anyone who has known me for longer than five minutes knows the only jewelry I’ve ever made was of the camp lanyard type, the only poem I ever wrote dates back to the first grade (although it did get pinned up on the bulletin board as an example of nice spacing between words), and the closest I’ve ever gotten to studying the stars is reading my daily horoscope.
My one and only hobby has always been, and will always be, reading, a pastime that struck me as incredibly nerdy and certainly nothing to shout about from the rooftops. It still seems pretty nerdy, but thankfully I am past the point of pretending. I am finally proud to say that I Am a Reader, although I’d argue with the person who came up with the slogan “Readers are Leaders.” Most readers don’t want to lead anything; we only want to read everything.
That is the only problem with reading. One book leads to another, and there is no way you will ever truly be finished. I remember taking a film studies class in high school and the teacher told us he was unable to watch even one minute of a movie without feeling compelled to sit down and watch the whole thing. I understand that because I’m the same way with a book, even one I don’t like. Kermit the Frog might think it isn’t easy being green to which I say try being neurotic.
I recently read a biography on a movie star from the 1940s whose ex-husband became president of the United States. Naturally, I had to read the memoir their son wrote about growing up with a famous mother and father. In the son’s memoir, he talked about his often shaky relationship with his equally famous stepmother so of course I had to read her memoir with her. That led to a book by the famous stepmother’s astrologer that really wasn’t too interesting, but I finished it anyway before picking up a book on how to write your own horoscope.
I tell you it’s never ending.
When it comes to history and science topics, I do cheat a little and read children’s books when possible. Not picture books, but middle school editions that explain things in a way any adult dum-dum, including this one, can understand.
Such as when I read a novel featuring a dolphin that rescued the heroine from drowning. After finishing it, I realized how little I know about dolphins — would they really rescue someone who was drowning? So I checked out a middle-school book on the smiling creatures and now know that not only are there documented stories of dolphins coming to the rescue of stranded swimmers as well as performing many other amazing feats, I also want to adopt one and have it live in our bathtub.
I don’t really mind being neurotic when it comes to one book leading to another, although it has resulted in a dangerously high pile of books stacked on my bedside table. Frankly, I can’t imagine a better hobby to have than reading, not even ferret racing, and I’m just waiting for the next time someone asks me what I do with my free time.
“I read,” I will say proudly, shoulders back and bifocals perched on the end of my nose. And I won’t even be intimidated if they tell me that in their free time, they make diamonds out of used wads of Juicy Fruit gum.
Which makes me wonder, how are diamonds formed anyway? Looks like it’s time to head to the library and find a middle-school book about it.
Nell Musolf is a freelance writer based in Mankato. She can be reached at email@example.com.