Jason Dill’s Fall Reading List

Ahead of his 'Epicly Later'd' episode on VICELAND, we asked skate legend and oddball Jason Dill to recommend five of his favorite books.

by Jason Dill; as told to Kevin Wilkins
Oct 18 2017, 11:21pm

An exceptional eccentric in an industry full of eccentrics, Jason Dill is your favorite weirdo's favorite weirdo. Cut from the same cloth as Neil Blender and Mark Gonzales, Dill carries the torch of skateboarding's earliest skater artists. In an activity that finds itself more and more affected by the mainstream every day, Dill has managed to preserve his independence and style in all aspects of his life, from skating to business.

Throughout his career, Dill has been quick to alter the environment around him to suit his needs. When he finds himself in a theoretically unskateable place, he'll find new ways to skate the unskateable. When he wants a brand that reflects him, he invents his own, Fucking Awesome, and builds a narrative that allows his team of FA skaters to be the lead characters in their own weird, fucked-up stories.

"I grew up reading," Dill says. "If you read Rumble Fish before you watch the movie, you understand that it came from a book first and that it was rearranged. It's like knowing an alternate reality."

So in the spirit of assuming an oddball role in Dill's parallel universe, we asked him to recommend five books to get us through this character-based reality that we're all playing a part in.

Watch Jason Dill's episode of Epicly Later'd on VICELAND Wednesday at 10 PM.

A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut (2005)

Vonnegut was ex-military. He was in the Army and served in World War II; he was a prisoner of war and survived the firebombing of Dresden. And all these years later he writes about George Bush, 9/11, and whatnot—all that stuff. That book was written by the old man at the end of his life. It's all about his point of view of what America is all these years later.

He was a fiction writer, but I really enjoy it when he gets in-depth about himself. A Man Without a Country is all his complaints, gripes, what he's seen America go through, and what he's been through as an older guy.

But, I mean, Jesus. Old Kurt had no idea what we were in for. He couldn't have written it. I mean, this is the man who in 1950-something wrote about an invention—a little box called Confido. You would talk to it and it would talk back to you and tell you what you wanted to hear. He was so far in advance on one hand, and then on the other hand, there's no way Vonnegut could have ever invented this fucking WWE presidency of game show horseshit. There's no way.

Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell (2008)

Outliers, great book. If you read Malcolm Gladwell at all, you'd know that it's super tech, very factual—it's almost like data, you know what I mean? The basic principle of Outliers is that 10,000 hours of doing something repetitively can make you an expert at it.

When the Beatles weren't known at all, they played strip clubs all over Hamburg. And when you play a strip club, you gotta play for like five hours straight. They just kept playing songs over and over and over and over and over and then you had the Beatles.

You see it in skating, too, because skateboarding's no roll-call shit. Skateboarding's never been organized. And think about it: There's never any racism in skateboarding. There's no fucking way. There's never any segregation, none of that shit. It's like, you're who you are? Great. Do a trick. Can you do this or not? Peace. It came down to how you did it. It had nothing to do with what you looked like—that's the beautiful thing about skateboarding. But that 10,000 hours shit is true because look at what skateboarding is—a kid from a broken home, such as myself, doesn't want to be at home. So what do I do? Go outside and skate for hours and hours and hours on the flat ground. Ten-thousand hour rule, totally in effect.

The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, Legs McNeil & Jennifer Osborne (2006)

The Other Hollywood is a fascinating book that starts from day one of the porn industry—pictures from the 1800s, the birth of photography, and all that shit. That's kind of the boring part. But then it gets into the 70s, 80s, 90s, and up into the 2000s, as the porno industry grows, and just how gigantic and psycho the whole thing is.

I would love to tell a bit of the ending, but I might ruin it for people. OK, I'll give you this and I don't give a fuck if we spoil a book. This ain't Star Wars.

It's got a happy ending… but someone gets HIV from a prostitute and they find out his baby momma is HIV positive, too, but their baby is born without HIV. Where else can you find a story with that much psycho shit happening, but it's still got a happy ending? It's pretty crazy. It's pretty intense. So yeah, I would recommend that book. It's gigantic; it looks like the size of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. It's pretty big for something about the goddamn porno industry.

Related video: How Jason Dill Dropped His Drug Habit

What Is the What, Dave Eggers (2006)

Basically what the book is about, is that civil-war level fighting in Sudan and those young guys who were 17, 18, 19—the Lost Boys of Sudan. It's modern day. We're talking about the year 2000. I might sound ignorant, but I swear, before I read it, I didn't realize that you could do a book on a verbal account of one person and have it come across that way.

But this in itself… what Dave Eggers got when he connected with Valentino Achak Deng, the main character. Just how it starts with him getting robbed in Atlanta and then it quickly takes you back to the Civil War in Sudan. I loved the detail of the schooling, the ups and downs, the NGOs; it goes into so much. They walked from Sudan to Ethiopia? How many kilometers is that? It's fucking insane. This dude, the main character, what he goes through and the beautiful way he describes things even though he's in hell on earth… it's astounding.

The man survived, you know. He survived something un-survivable. That's how a lot of great books are. Like: "It can't get worse. It can't get worse. Oh, my God; it's getting worse!" What a fucking fascinating book. Dave Eggers kicked ass.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown (1965)

Manchild in the Promised Land is about growing up in 1940s, 50s Harlem, the beginning of the big boom of heroin there, and much of what the black community and this kid went through weekly. It's written by a man named Claude Brown. He tells you about his life and when he starts getting sent to boys' schools upstate and shit—a really intense story.

Because it's a complete account of that time and place, it's just so interesting. Imagine what a boys' school looked like in 1949, you know? He went to a lot of prisons, too. And it's got the sickest title, Manchild in the Promised Land. I really love that book and I'd love to talk to anyone who's read it.

Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen (1995)

Lies My Teacher Told Me is something I will be reading for the rest of my life. Meaning, there's so much information in this book. It's so painful, so shocking, so spot on—with very text-booky, school information in parts—and it's filled with agonizing stories of the true history of America. What old James has done here is taken every fucking history book that they give high-school students—because this guy's a teacher—and he read all of them. Then he was like, "These are all fucking bullshit."

Growing up in America, in the small amount of school I went to, they talked about Helen Keller. But did they? Blind, deaf, mute, she learned how to read and do sign language. But they didn't tell me she went on to graduate from Radcliffe College. She went on to write for 100 newspapers and became one of the most famous people in the world… ever. She was the first person to ever protest outside of the White House, and that was during the Woodrow Wilson administration.

So if the information about Helen Keller is all misconstrued, let me have you try these shoes on for size: Why is there a statue of George Washington in Washington, DC, where he looks like a Greek god? Like he's all muscular and shit. George Washington had the body of Charles Bukowski! It's all bullshit.

I've never put a book down and felt like I had two bricks on top of the inside of my eyeballs. Like it hurt my face. I've also never had a book be so sad that I put it down and I had to stop reading for a while.

Watch Jason Dill's episode of Epicly Later'd on VICELAND Wednesday at 10 PM.