design by rebecca johnson
Diane Vadino
Park Slope, Brooklyn
Editorial director, Dovetail Creative, and travel blogger, travelcrush.
On trains- anywhere my Eurail pass will take me.
I recently spent an hour reading The Island at the Center of the World at La Calaca Loca in Oakland and it was perfect.
My reading this summer is split into two very distinct categories. I recently auditioned for Jeopardy and discovered that while I can competitively answer Jeopardy test questions that are specifically to do with places I've actually been and books I've already read, I have - literally! - a 15-year-old's understanding of American history. I haven't taken a U.S. history class since I was a sophomore in high school. I guess this is fine in general - come to think of it, I have a 12-year-old's understanding of chemistry - but it just felt weird, knowing so little about this place where I actually live. So I've been reading what I can on U.S. history. I'm beginning at the beginning, with books about the colonies - English and Dutch (I'm getting to the Spanish and the French), commercially motivated and religiously ordained.
They include:
The Island at the Center of the World
 I'm only halfway through this story of New Netherland but it's absolutely a historical page turner, filled with things I didn't know - like the fact that at the time Columbus landed in America, a full 25% of the world's languages were Native American, or that Henry Hudson (and his poor son!) were deserted and left to die by his mutinous sailors.
Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation
Reading this I really finally understood how utterly different the motivations were for setting up what was in essence a business enterprise in Jamestown, versus the Pilgrims' religious settlement in Plymouth.
Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New HistorySpeaking of, this is a beautifully written account of the Separatists' long voyage to America, beginning in northern England, then to Leiden in the Netherlands, and onward to New England.
By complete contrast, I'm also reading and rereading some favorites as I work on a new book. Among them are:
Mrs. Dalloway and Between the Acts
The latter is my favorite Virginia Woolf book - there is keening, end-of-the-world sound in it that makes it feel like she's writing at the edge of - within view of - the apocalypse, which I guess in some ways was true.
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar
I'm excited to read both this and his brand-new book, The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
I find this book so perfect that I have trouble believing it was actually written by a human being. Wilder is so incredibly knowing about his characters' failures and weaknesses - and though he's brutal in his own way, so incredibly kind about them as well: "She wanted her daughter for herself; she wanted to hear her say: "You are the best of all possible mothers"; she longed to hear her whisper: "Forgive me." I just love all of that - the admission, the rhythm, and all that greedy love.
~ Diane Vadino
Diane Vadino is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn and has contributed to Travel + Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Outside and other magazines. She blogs at
July 2013