How to Use Books to Enhance Your Hobbies & Experiences

Last week I spent five days backpacking in the Adirondacks mountain range in upstate New York. 

Along with clothes, a sleeping bag, and other essentials, I brought a few treats to enjoy each night at camp after long days of hiking, such as a corncob pipe, chocolate, cherry tobacco, and, most important of all, a book. 

For this trip, I brought along a classic in the genre of nature writing known as Desert Solitaire. 

It was well worth the extra weight. 

Although I only read 40 pages (too exhausted each night to read for long), the book enhanced my experience out in the woods. 

Through his descriptive writing, Edward Abbey taught me a thing or two about how to look more closely at nature, and how to find aspects of your surroundings to appreciate. 

Borrowing his naturalist eye, bugs became less annoying and more interesting. 

The shapes of a tree’s leaves became worthy of a second look. 

The Martins, a squirrel-like creature native to this region, filled me with hours of entertainment, as they dashed up and down trees and opened their mouths wide to issue warnings about the potential threat  down below with a chirp-like screech (I must say, it’s nice every once in a while to feel dangerous).

Whenever I stopped to look around, I asked myself, what would Abbey observe? 

How would he look at all this? 

What would catch his attention? 

And then I tried to imitate his way of looking at nature. 

This made the experience all the more intoxicating. 

Now, reading nature writing while hiking isn’t the only way to use books to enhance your experience and make things more interesting. 

Here are some other ways to use books to get more out of your hobbies:

  • Read a book on art history before going to an art museum. 
  • Study some Gothic architecture before visiting Salzburg, Austria (a trip of mine coming up). 
  • Skim a work of German history before visiting Germany. 
  • Read a book on marine biology before snorkeling. 
  • Peruse a classic on the philosophy of adventure before a big trip. 
  • Read an analysis on the horror genre before going to see a new horror film.

These are just a few examples. There are so many ways to use books to see further and more deeply into your experiences.

As an added benefit, if you have friends who think deeply about their hobbies, you’ll both have more to discuss. After a movie, instead of just saying “great film” you both could dissect the cinematography techniques.

Remember, understanding generates appreciation, and appreciation leads to fun and meaning. So read up!


After graduating college with an econ degree I realized I was still anything but well-educated. Over the last 4 years, I've been trying to fix that, autodidact-mode — by reading books and engaging in self-directed study across multiple subjects. On this blog, my goal is to share my learnings and help others get a well-rounded education outside of school. Education, after all, is a lifelong process, one well worth the investment.

Recent Posts