Unusual Hobbies: A Reading List

Photo: MTSOfan

My boyfriend and I share a love of cryptozoology and hidden places. For Valentine’s Day, he bought us matching “explorer” jackets with Nessie and Mothman patches affixed to the sleeves. We have standard hobbies, too—reading, writing, listening to music—but podcasts about Bigfoot and poring over Atlas Obscura is where things get a little weird. In this collection, you’ll meet folks who look at planes, at compasses, at building blocks and at each other (in full Civil War uniform, no less).

1. “Things Are Looking Up For Planespotters, the World’s Most Obsessive Aviation Geeks.” (Andrew McMillen, BuzzFeed, February 2015)

On Saturday mornings, when I was little, my dad played a computer game called Flight Simulator. He’d always loved planes, and flying them virtually was his way of taking to the skies without increasing his insurance payments. I thought of him immediately when I read Andrew McMillen’s reporting. Planespotters photograph, memorize, categorize and share the planes they see from their homes and the runways. Government agencies may be suspicious, but many airports welcome the free publicity, camaraderie and a fanaticism for flight.

2. “They Live and Breathe Letterboxing.” (Chris Granstrom, Smithsonian Magazine, April 1998)

In layman’s terms, letterboxing combines geocaching and scavenger hunting. In this essay, Chris Granstrom tags along with English letterboxers on the stunning Dartmoor landscape. Since its inception, letterboxing has spread from the moors of England to the United States and beyond. How do you play? All you need is a notebook, a compass, and an ink stamp.

3. “Most of the People Here are Just Themselves in the Past” & “The Cross-Dressings Reenactors of Gettysburg.” (Leigh Stein, The Toast, 2013)

Before she founded a literary conference, poet and novelist Leigh Stein reported on Civil War reenactment. In this two-part essay, Stein travels to Pennsylvania, where her mother is participating in the Battle of Gettysburg as a laundress. Stein explores the sundry roles of women in the Civil War, especially those who disguised themselves to go to war, and the rigor of the reenactors themselves.

4. “An Object in Motion.” (Aaron Burch, The Nervous Breakdown, July 2014)

What’ll strike you first about “An Object in Motion” is the form. You’re hooked from the first Q. Read this short story about a man whose obsession with Legos destroys his marriage.