There’s a book for every soul.
There’s a reason why having a hobby is good for mental health: It sparks joy and relieves stress (and we’ve got plenty of it going around). The start of the pandemic was all about baking, gardening, painting, and other passions that people had buried underneath jobs and chores. Many found new loves. For me, it was tennis. I learned to play, became a Rafa fan, and discovered that a lazy bookworm like me could be mildly athletic, too.
Even if you weren’t one of those people on Instagram sharing banana bread recipes and photos of your sketches, now is as good a time as any to rekindle your love for an old hobby or engage in a new one—February is the month of love, after all.
It’s still pretty much the start of 2022 (where did the month go?) and if you’ve resolved to make more time for your hobbies this year, I have a suggestion: read a book on the subject. Want to mix it up and enjoy yourself? Take classes, experiment with different activities, and find groups with similar interests—there’s no wrong way to approach this.
Top Picks for You
For the Love of Food: ‘Parsi Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family’
Centuries ago, Parsis (followers of the Zorastrian faith) fled Iran and arrived in India. Mumbai was once home to hundreds of Parsi and Irani cafes (Iranis came later) that served bun maska, dhansak, berry pulao, and salli boti, but numbers are sadly dwindling now.
Chef Anahita Dhondy, former chef-partner of popular Iranian restaurant chain SodaBottleOpenerWala, is determined to excite people about Parsi cuisine. Her newest effort is a food memoir, Parsi Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family. If you love cooking and want to try a regional Indian cuisine that very few people are talking about, you should pick up her book. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef celebrates her culinary heritage, shares recipes she has grown up with and picked up on her travels, and gives insight into a food-loving community.
For the Love of Photography: ‘A Woman’s War’
Lee Miller was an extraordinary woman. She was a model, muse, fashion photographer, and war reporter. Her portraits of painter Pablo Picasso have generated a lot of interest, and you may also have seen her photograph in Hitler’s bathtub in Munich when it was discovered by the Allies in 1945. The American photographer documented the war from the frontlines as one of the four official war photographers of the U.S. armed forces and her work was published in Vogue.
If you’re interested in photography, this book will substantiate the narrative that a picture is worth a thousand words. The powerful images of the war atrocities she captured are some of her best works. A Woman’s War is a collection of her photographs of women who worked tirelessly in the war effort and the impact it had on them. Many of these are previously unpublished. Her son, Antony Penrose, discovered them after her death, and many collections have been exhibited.
For the Love of Gardening: ‘The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives'
Stephen Buchmann is a professor of ecology at the University of Arizona and a pollination expert. His book, The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives, is a deep-dive into the world of flowers: their colors, their diversity, their functions, and their appeal. Gardeners, nature-lovers, and biologists will love to understand the cultural significance of flowers as well as their carbon footprints. One thing’s for sure, your garden blossoming with poppies will look different after this read.
For the Love of Embroidery: ‘A Year of Embroidery’
Embroidery is serious business, take it from designer Yumiko Higuchi. She has poured her love for stitches into her book, A Year of Embroidery: A Month-to-Month Collection of Motifs for Seasonal Stitching, which gives you a chance to take your skills to the next level, season by season, stitch by stitch. From easy patterns to some that require patience, there are 38 patterns with instructions, photographs, and diagrams. So, you can make your way from pretty valentine flowers and skiers in February to summer flower gardens in August and angels in December.
The author writes, “In this day and age when any and everything is available in an instant, I hope you will enjoy the forgotten comfort of working with your hands.”
For the Love of Travel: ‘From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home’
Author Tembi Locke takes readers to Sicily in this poignant story of love and loss. Tembi fell in love with an Italian chef whose family didn’t approve of a Black American woman for their daughter-in-law. But love persevered and they lived happily…until he died. Reeling from the loss of her great big love, she traveled to his hometown in Sicily with their daughter and started her journey of healing. His family had come around while he was alive, and she found comfort in his home, with his mother, around the food he loved.
Travel serves so many purposes, and for some, it may help them grieve and heal. From Scratch is one such story that’s particularly relevant in 2022.
For the Love of Sports: 'I Always Wanted to Be Somebody’
Does the name Althea Gibson ring any bells? It should: she was the first Black athlete to compete and win in the U.S. Nationals (now U.S. Open). When the world of tennis was white, Althea broke race barriers to win the French Open (the first African-American to win a Grand Slam) in 1956 and, the next year, shook hands with the Queen after she won Wimbledon, again a first for the prestigious tournament.
Even though she won multiple Grand Slam titles (singles and doubles), she had no money. Amateur tennis players didn’t earn cash prizes for competing in tournaments until 1968 when the “Open Era” of tennis started, so she turned professional, which again wasn’t lucrative for a Black woman athlete.
Today, when Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are routinely bashed for folly or no folly, imagine what Althea may have gone through in a clearly segregated world, struggling through racism, sexism, prejudice, and discrimination. Read her autobiography, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody, if you’re interested in the sport because hers is a name that needs to be honored and remembered.
For the Love of Poetry: ‘Call Us What We Carry’
The youngest presidential inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman has made a name for herself in the last year. Her poem, The Hill We Climb, was written after the siege on the Capitol building, but there was a message of hope for the nation: “[T]hat even as we grieved, we grew, that even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried…”
In the collection of poems Call Us What We Carry, she gives words to the past of slavery, the 1918 influenza, segregation, Jim Crow, and AIDS, and then brings us to the present moment of the pandemic. There is sadness, fatigue, and grief on these pages, but there’s also resilience and learnings.
For the Love of Running: ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’
Haruki Murakami is a beloved author, but did you know he’s also a long-distance runner? In his deeply personal memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, he writes the influence that running has had on his life and his work. Running is meditative for him, as is writing, and the intersection of the two is fascinating. This book won’t teach you how to run, but it will make you tie your shoes and hit the ground.
If you have an affinity for going the distance, then you’ll find his words relatable: “I’m often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue.”
For the Love of Music: ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’
A book about a ’70s rock band written as a transcript of a music documentary? Yes, please! Taylor Jenkins Reid writes about the rise and fall of a fictional band, and the story rolls through affairs, gossip, drugs, and music. Beautiful, glamorous, talented singer Daisy comes together with The Six, and then creates magic with the band’s leader, Billy. So, why do they break up?
Daisy Jones & the Six has powerful and complex characters, riveting themes, and original songs. And it’s going to be turned into an Amazon Prime series soon.
For the Love of Comics: ‘Living with Mochi’
If there’s one thing you do after reading this list, follow Gemma Gené on Instagram. She is a New York-based architect-turned-cartoonist from Spain who sketches comics about her pets, pug Mochi and twins dogs Huey and Duey. It is a delight to see Mochi and Gemma’s daily adventures that often feature her partner, the twins, and now her daughter. Heart-melting stuff, whether you have a furry friend at home or not.
In her book, Living With Mochi, her love for Mochi is on every page—from the story of his adoption to the adorable sibling rivalry with his brothers. It’s cute, funny, endearing, and just plain fun, so pick it up the next time you’re having a bad day and Mochi will make it all better. Fair warning, you’ll want to bring a pup home after this.