Pliny the Elder was what we would now call a workaholic, totally absorbed in his writing. According to his nephew, Pliny the Younger, "the only time he took from his work was for his bath, and by bath I mean his actual immersion, for while he was being rubbed down and dried he had a book read to him or dictated notes. When traveling he felt free from other responsibilities to give every minute to work; he kept a secretary at his side with book and notebook; and in winter saw that his hands were protected by long sleeves, so that even bitter weather should not rob him of a working hour. For the same reason, too, he used to be carried about Rome in a chair. I can remember how he scolded me for walking; according to him I need not have wasted those hours, for he thought any time wasted which was not devoted to work. It was this application which enabled him to finish all those volumes of the Natural History." Source: Livius.
According to the Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD, 3rd ed. revised), "Pliny was no philosopher. It may indeed be thought refreshing to have a view of the ancient world from an author who did not have some claim to the philosophical viewpoint ... there is an engaging personality at work..." Pliny's writing in the Natural History is "highly individual: as is the style and the imagery, which was often misunderstood in later antiquity, and can still baffle today." An ancient encyclopedia may sound dry, but the Natural History is an absorbing mixture of facts and fantastic stories. I first read the Penguin Classics selection from the encyclopedia on a cross-country flight years ago and couldn't put it down.
Here's a typical entry:
"Beyond the Scythian Cannibals, in a certain large valley in the Himalayas, there is a region called Abarimon where some forest-dwellers live who have their feet turned back behind their legs; they run with extraordinary speed and wander far and wide with the wild animals. Baeton, Alexander the Great's road-surveyor, states that these people could not breathe in another climate, and for that reason none had been brought to the neighboring kings, or to Alexander himself." -- Natural History. Source: Strange Science.
The Natural History is a monumental achievement that opens a window into the ancient world as seen by an educated Roman. Pliny himself was the model writer and researcher and no matter what your personal interests might be his life represents a practical philosophy well-worth emulating today. In fact, I'd say that Pliny the Elder's approach to life is still the best philosophy available anywhere:
"Life is being awake. The Natural History is a monument to keeping alert, and to the useful employment of time. Pliny's energy and diligence astonished his nephew, were intended to impress his contemporaries, and still amaze today; they were, moreover, not a contingent habit of mind, but intended as an ethical statement. For all his defects of accuracy, selection, and arrangement, Pliny achieved a real summation of universal knowledge, deeply imbued with the mood of his time, and the greatness of his work was speedily recognized. It was a model for later writers ... and attained a position of enormous cultural and intellectual influence in the medieval west." -- OCD.