The great majority of my free time is spent reading fiction. I love immersing myself into a fantasy world where life's stressors are immaterial, where reality is replaced by fantasy. Specifically, I love to read fanfiction, particularly stories about Harry Potter. Fanfiction involves fans of a work transforming it and making it their own. An author may write about a character hardly mentioned or may wondering how the story would change if A happened instead of B. Fanfiction explores the world beyond the scope of the work's original universe and allows readers to look at the work from different perspectives. Is Snape a hero or a villain? What if Neville Longbottom was the Boy-Who-Lived? Why did Regulus Black defect from the Death Eaters? Fanfiction encourages its' readers to think critically and imagine possibilities.
To me, research and fanfiction share a lot of similar properties. Research is generally built off of and inspired by other research- you take a concept and add your own angle or twist to what already exists. Both are reviewed by peers and critiqued, though, understandably, the processes are just a tad different. They both involve critically examining the source material in order to understand the ideas presented, to investigate claims, and to reach conclusions of your own as informed by the information found within. Different papers or stories may cause you to reexamine your views or consider new angles. Most importantly, both involve creativity, imagination, and the willingness to consider possibilities outside the currrent realm of thought.
If this sounds interesting to you, fanfiction is pretty freely available all around the Internet, concerning just about everything you could be a fan of, from sports, to books, to shows and movies. There's also been some interesting research on fanfiction and fan culture in general done by Henry Jenkins. Check it out!