27 Best Books For Popular Hobbies

Gardening, cooking, and running are things that people like to do in their free time. We all need a way to relax, recharge, and reinvigorate ourselves.

We all like to stay informed on what we enjoy doing. For each pastime, there are typically countless books. We’ve selected the one classic book you should have for the 27 interests we’ve identified in this feature.


    Classic Books For Your Favorite Pastimes

    The best book for each pastime isn’t always one that has been published in the past couple of years. There’s a reason that classic books are classic. They’re usually good, and they’ve withstood the test of time. In this collection, there is a mix of older books with some that are very recent publications.

    The hobbies are arranged in alphabetical order for your convenience. These resource books make great gifts for enthusiasts who don’t already own the book. Please read on.

    27 Best Books for Popular Hobbies and Interests

    1.) Antiquing

    The book to get is Kovel’s Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide 2021. To quote the New York Times, “Kovels’ guides are considered the bibles in the field.”

    Terry Kovel has written more than 100 books on antiques and collecting antiques and also writes a nationally syndicated column on the topic. She wrote this book along with her daughter Kim.

    It features 11,500 listings and 3,000 color photographs. The prices are based on actual sales, not estimates.

    If you’re looking to sell an antique, this book is for you. If you’re looking to purchase, this book is for you.

    2.) Baking

    The star of the Great British Baking Show, Paul Hollywood, was a baker’s son before becoming the TV show baking judge. Hollywood first learned the craft from his father before advancing to the head baker role at hotels worldwide.

    You will love the clear directions, plentiful photos of the finished products, and the explanations for why and how to do something in his book How To Bake.

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    3.) Baseball Card Collecting

    The Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide has been the go-to book on baseball card prices and collecting for many years.

    If you’re trying to check the price of your 1968 Mickey Mantle or another card from your childhood, you’ll want to consult the Beckett book or online guide. Always remember the standard rule of collecting: Ultimately, the item’s real value is what someone is willing to pay for it.

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    4.) Basketball

    Written by Terry Pluto, Loose Balls tells the American Basketball Association (the ABA) story. With stars and personalities like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Moses Malone, Bob Costas, and Larry Brown, the ABA played a brand of basketball that the NBA essentially adopted after the fact.

    The ABA offered an entertaining basketball product with its red, white, and blue ball, three-point shot, emphasis on individual stars, and show-stopping dunks. The book is told in snippets from those who played, coached, and called the games.

    I especially enjoyed the stories on Marvin “Bad News” Barnes. With a nickname like that, you know the accounts will be interesting.

    Written in 1990, the book holds up well after all these years and is considered the essential book on the ABA’s history.

    5.) Bicycling

    Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner provides a behind the scene look at cycling best races. Having spent 25 years as a cycling commentator, Kirby has good insight into the racers and the races. The wit, wisdom, and passion of the author shine through in this must-read for cycling fans.

    6.) Birding

    The Peterson Field guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America is the quintessential birder book to use as a reference for identifying birds and their habits.

    Compact enough to take on a hike, the guide is full of pictures and color-coded range maps for birds.

    7.) Camping

    Joe Yogerst’s 100 Parks, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do showcases 100 North America park destinations and features National Geographic photography.

    The author includes travel tips, fun facts, and suggestions for hiking, biking, exploring, and camping for each entry. This is a resource to both plan your next camping vacation and daydream about all of the places you’d like to visit.

    8.) Chess

    Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess is the classic that all chess players should have in their library. From piece movement to basic checkmates, the greatest player teaches you the fundamentals for playing a game. Although best suited for beginners and intermediates, even the expert will find worthwhile tips.

    You’ll also want to read Chess the Easy Way by Reuben Fine. More chess coaches in the U.S. recommend this book for their students than any other chess book.

    9.) Coin Collecting

    Neil S. Berman’s Coin Collecting for Dummies book is a one-stop resource for assembling your own collection, understanding what coins to collect, maintaining your coins in the best condition, and guiding you on how to buy sell coins online.

    If you want to be a numismatics expert, this resource is a great starting point.

    10.) Cooking

    Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a comprehensive cookbook. This modern classic weighs in at about five pounds with 960 pages. It’s an investment in good eating.

    Bittman was the lead food writer for the New York Times and has written 30 books on cooking. This is a great book for folks just starting on their cooking adventures and for experienced chefs wanting to have a reliable resource.

    11.) Dance

    In The Art of Making Dances, Doris Humphrey provides a practical resource on dance choreography.

    Humphrey was a pioneer of American modern dance, a teacher, and a choreographer whose influences on dance are still relevant.

    As Humphrey describes various dances, she includes a short history of the dance and discusses its design and dynamics. As Humphrey writes, “A movement without motivation is unthinkable.”

    12.) Fly Fishing

    In Kirk Deeter’s and Charlie Meyer’s The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing, the authors provide 240 tips on casting, presentation, reading water, fly selection, and miscellaneous suggestions.

    This book is plain-spoken and straight to the point; this book cuts through the muck and gives you the information you need to improve your fly fishing game. Provides tips so valuable you’ll want to read it at least twice if you’re serious about fly fishing.

    13.) Football

    Jerry Kramer wrote Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap during the 1967 season as a 10-year vet of the Packers. Football fans will remember that the ’67 season featured the famous Ice Bowl game against the Cowboys and a Packer Super Bowl win.

    You’ll get a glimpse of what it’s like to be an NFL player and some up-close observations of Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named.

    Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley described the book as follows, “To this day, the best inside account of pro football, indeed the best book ever written about that sport and that league.”

    14.) Gardening

    Narrowing gardening book selection down to one title is a difficult feat, but we have a winner. We recommend The Complete Gardener: A Practical, Imaginative Guide to Every Aspect of Gardening by Monty Don.

    Don, the lead presenter on BBC TV’s Gardener’s World, not only emphasizes an organic approach but also zeroes in on another important principle: making sure your garden provides habitats for local wildlife.

    15.) Golf

    Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf is a timeless classic. The perfect Father’s Day gift or Christmas present for the golfer in your life, this is the answer to the question: “If you could only own one golf book, what would it be?”

    This illustrated step-by-step guide is straightforward. It’s almost as if Hogan was giving you a personal lesson.

    16.) Guitar Playing

    David M. Brewster’s Teach Yourself to Play Guitar: A Quick and Easy Introduction for Beginners is great for folks who want to learn who have no music-reading experience.

    This is a practical approach to learning the basics, focusing on quickly getting to the essentials and spending less time on theory. The uncomplicated approach works well for adults hoping to play a few licks quickly.

    17.) Hockey

    Ken Dryden’s The Game is considered the best hockey book of all time and the best sports book ever written by a player in any sport.

    Dryden, the Montreal Canadiens’ goalie in the 1970s, relates his story in a journal format. He relates his hockey story and what’s going on in Quebec, where nationalism had grown in popularity. Well worth a read.

    18.) Hiking

    If Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail doesn’t get you exciting about hiking, adventure, and friendship, what will?

    This autobiographical effort by Bryson tells the story of he and his friend Stephen Katz’s attempt to hike much of the trail. Written in Bryson’s humorous style, the author also finds time to explain the trail’s history and describe trees, plants, animals, and people the duo encounter.

    19.) Investing

    Peter Lynch’s One Up on Wall Street is an excellent book to read if you want to learn more about investing. The former fund manager of the Magellan fund at Fidelity, Lynch, can describe fundamental investment strategies in a simple and entertaining way.

    One of the points that Lynch drives home is that everyday folks might encounter great investment opportunities in the course of living their own lives. He presents examples of ordinary investors making attractive returns by investing in what they know.

    20.) Meditation

    Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness, An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation lays out a patch to developing awareness in your life. Meditation is a way to enhance your day-to-day experience rather than an escape from reality.

    The book includes advice and exercises on being awake and fully aware. Everyday activities like washing the dishes and peeling an orange provide opportunities for awareness, self-understanding, and peace.

    21.) Painting

    Richard Schmid’s Everything I know about Painting – and More is an excellent place to start if you’re interested in learning more about how to paint.

    Even purchased used, this book might cost you more than $150, but the author packs a lot of value into each page. The author provides background info on composition, starting, color, knowing when to stop, and even recipes to complete certain paintings.

    Loaded with photos and advice, there’s a reason this one is a classic.

    22.) Photography

    There are many classic photography books, but our favorite is David DuChemin’s The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs. DuChemin is a world and humanitarian assignment photographer and workshop leader.

    This book helps photographers at all levels rethink the mundane. The author typically includes a photography assignment at the end of each chapter.

    23.) Pickleball

    Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. If you’re trying to improve your game, a good book is a great place to start. We’re recommending Smart Pickleball: The Pickleball Guru’s Guide by Prem Carnot and Wendy Garrido.

    Prem Carno, also known as the “Pickleball Guru,” shares with the reader tips and drills that he has fine-tuned from teaching the game at his clinics and private lessons. You’ll learn not just how to get the ball over the net but also how to play smart pickleball. Oh, and stay out of the kitchen!

    24.) Poker

    Doyle Brunson’s two Super System books (Super System: A Course in Power Poker and Super System 2: A Course in Power Poker) is a great resource for winning poker strategies, professional approaches to the games, and tips and advice.

    The first Super System book was written by the two-time WSOP champ and Hall-of-Famer in 1979. It’s a little dated now but still considered a must-reading. Super System 2 features insider secrets from top pros.

    25.) Tennis

    John McPhee’s Levels of the Game recounts a match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner at Forest Hills in 1968.

    While the book is relatively short, it gives a shot-by-shot description of many points while finding time to address each player’s background, attitude about the game, and influences. Tennis writing at its best!

    27.) Word Games

    In Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, Stefan Fatsis open the curtain on Scrabble players who are “at one with the board.” Playing high competitive matches, these colorful players have a knack for wordplay.

    Fatsis also tells the story of the game’s origin – created by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression. And, the author reveals his own love story with the game.

    27.) Zen

    Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a short but complicated book that has made its way onto many great book lists. It’s the type of book that merits reading slowly, contemplating, and then re-reading again (and again).

    Written in the 1970s, it tells the story of a father and son’s road trip on a motorcycle but along the way addresses philosophical, cultural, and value issues that will make you think.

    By Mike O’Halloran

    Mike is the co-founder of ListCaboodle and has authored four books.

    You are on our 27 Best Books For Popular Hobbies page.

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