It’s easy to hate reading, and I understand why. Reading books reminds us of school, and school, for the vast majority of us, sucked. Five paragraph essays, book reports, pop quizzes… I’m zoning out now just thinking about it.
It was only until years later I found out that this reading thing wasn’t too bad. I could pick up a book and secretly learn about stuff like drug overdoses and aliens, all between the cover of these books, and no one would ever know. It was magazines like Big Brother and the 1 or 2 “cool teachers” who recommended some key literature that ignited the spark.
Hoping to pass the reading bug on, I hit up a bunch of our contributors and respected writers and asked them to recommend some books for lazy skateboarders. So, if you ever decide to pick up one of these ancient artifacts, or just want to bulk up your collection, we have a handy little list here for you to enjoy.
1. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
“Books for lazy skaters…if they’re truly lazy I’d suggest reading a blank notebook. There’s no text and they’ll be done reading it in no time at all. I prefer the tiny pocket moleskins.
As for an actual book I always tell people to start with Raymond Carver. Carver was a drunk who never managed to write a novel. Only poems and short stories, and he is the master of the short story. His stories range from 2 – 8 pages, and what he packs into those short tales will knock you on your ass.
I read and reread a story from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love probably on a monthly basis. Carver, Bukowski, Fante all wrote in a very simple, yet moving way. It’s the voice of the people. No flowery writing that takes six pages to say, “It was raining.” I’m not a great writer. I barely finished high school. The words I use are the same ones that I’d use if telling a story to my friends at the bar and so I am inspired by writers who write the way real people speak. Carver is my hands down favorite. But if you’re truly a lazy skater you can always NetFlix Short Cuts, the film Robert Altman made out of some of Carver’s short stories.” – Chris Nieratko
2. Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño
“To read Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño is to ask yourself: what is the difference between skateboarders and poets? The answer: barely anything. Different medium, different language. Beyond these two, the spirit of each is precisely the same as the other. This is a novel that considers the basic attraction to scandal and spectacle. A phrase is a trick and a verse is a line. A sample, from p.57: “He appeared and disappeared like a ghost whenever there was fighting, wherever desperate, generous, mad, courageous, despicable Latin Americans were destroying, rebuilding, and destroying reality…”
This book is what I imagine a man like Jake Phelps would read if Phelps was someone who read regularly. Maybe the Phelps we know is this Phelps. Maybe he reads. Maybe, secretly, he reads RideChannel articles and doesn’t much give a fuck.” – Kyle Beachy
3. The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński
“When Chris Nieratko started at Big Brother he was heavily under the influence of, well, prescription pills, but also Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. Fine writers, both of them, but the bravado and machismo can become a bit tiring and one dimensional after awhile. And Chris’s writing was a reflection of that. ‘I got fucked up, then I fucked a whore! Then I got fucked up again! Check me out!’
I decided that Chris needed to broaden his horizons and read some proper literature. But what to recommend to someone who only knows Bukowski? I didn’t want to give him Dickens or some shit like that, but even someone like Dostoevsky might be unable to capture his attention. So I met with then Hustler editor Allan MacDonell (one of the smartest men I know) and asked him what he thought. The Painted Bird, he said without missing a beat. ‘Oh fuck,’ I said. ‘Yeah, you’re right. Why didn’t I think of that?’ So I gave Nieratko a copy. I don’t think he read it, though, because, as you well know, his writing still sucks. I’M KIDDING. Chill out. Chris should be recommending me books. I want to know what that dude is on these days.
Anyway, it’s a fucked up book. It’s about a wandering boy’s encounters with World War II peasants engaged in all forms of sexual and social deviance such as incest, bestiality and rape, and in other forms of extreme violence exciting lust. Semi-autobiographical? Perhaps. I’ll let your readers do their own research. I really liked it, although I would not consider Kosinski one of my favorite authors. He’s not even in the top 10. We can have that discussion another time. But The Painted Bird is a good introduction to literature for a deviant mind.” – Dave Carnie
4. A Massive Swelling by Cintra Wilson
“Long before the Urban Outfitter-friendly Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs diluted it, Cintra Wilson’s A Massive Swelling perfected a voice, tone and perspective that would eventually become a standard (perhaps even played out) in skateboarding and pop culture commentary. Anyone putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard will learn from Massive. If you fancy yourself a writer, a critic, a satirist, sarcastic or snarky, or enjoy reading pop culture criticism in any form, including skateboarding, then Cintra is your Queen Bee.” – Robert Brink
5. In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
“Skateboarders should read this book, A) because it’s funny and B) because it is concise. You can read every short story in less than an hour, and as a collection, it constitutes a brilliant argument against invasive marketing/corporations. This is something we should be especially aware of as skateboarders. On a side note, one of the stories involves a guy’s penis falling off into the Grand Canyon.” – Morley Musick
6. Who Are You People? by Shari Caudron
“Every skateboarder is at least vaguely aware that skating is misunderstood by the general populace. In Who Are You People? Shari Caudron joins and investigates various groups of weirdos – from ice fishermen to “Grobanites” to furries and cosplayers – to better understand fanatical lifestyles.
It’s a quick read; each chapter is its own little vignette about a group she joined. She offers interesting insights into fandoms and the effects they have on culture, and it may help you as a skater (translation: member of a giant fandom) understand how and why people think and act the way they do about their hobbies, whether it’s the giant model train set your uncle builds in his basement or the crates of VHS tapes hidden in every 30-something skater’s house.” – Ian Graham
7. Secrets & Surprises by Ann Beattie
“I’m suggesting two titles because they’re both collections of short stories and they’re compliments to each other. First up is Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver, in fact you can steal it here. Carver’s short stories can really be about anything or nothing. Skipping school to go fishing or arguing with women (something he’s really good at), anyone can relate to his stories because they’re direct and unpretentious. Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic asshole, which is pretty common among great writers.
That’s why I also recommend you read Secrets & Surprises by Ann Beattie. Beattie’s short stories are like Carvers in that they aren’t about “big moments” or “life changing events,” (that shit is played out and corny). Does anyone want to read about a junkie’s redemption or a rags to riches story anymore? I don’t, so I read well written short stories about pretty regular shit and it makes you sound super smart.
So yeah, read Beattie because she’s great and it offsets Carver’s wife-beating alcoholism. Bonus: you can read like 1.5 stories in each and pretend you read the whole book and no one will know.” – Anthony Pappalardo
8. Skinema by Chris Nieratko
“Sex stories. Drug Stories. Dumb stories. If you enjoy the ramblings of Chris Nieratko, Skinema has got them all, broken up into little bite sized stories and rants disguised as porno reviews. This one is a good travel companion and probably best for anyone that has severe ADD, as every page is essentially a new story, so if you start spacing out by the 3rd sentence, just turn the page and read the next smutty tale.” – Ian Michna
9. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
“Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is the best casual evidence that fiction is capable of rearranging time. In other words doing the unique thing that fiction does. The novel opens with the attempted murder of a railroad worker and ends many, many years later, after fires and deaths and freaks and ghost dogs and trains. It is a very short novel and asks only that you pay attention to the main character, who is a man like you or your friends.” – Kyle Beachy
10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
“The Old Man and the Sea by literary bad-ass Ernest Hemingway is a classic tale of Man vs Nature – if you can consider a gigantic fish Nature. Hemingway was known for his economy of language; he wrote very simply, plainly and to the point, using just the right words to tell the tale and nothing more. This story matches that plot: simple and direct, but oh so powerful. An old Cuban fisherman in the depths in a long stretch with no catches hooks a massive marlin that pulls him further and further out to sea in his tiny skiff. Neither creature is willing to relent, and each has only the power and will they were born with to combat their opponent.The arc of the story is tragic, beautiful and totally manly all at once.
The book earned Hemingway the Pulitzer prize and was his last full-length novel before he decided to kill himself with a shotgun rather than grow old and weak. It’s only 125 pages so you can plow through it without a massive time investment, and you’ll be glad you did.” – Mark Whiteley