Where you live: Philadelphia suburbs
Insta handle: @seana.dee
Current read: Jenny Colgan’s Christmas at Little Beach Street Café, One Day in December by Josie Silver (audio), Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler (I’m a math teacher) and Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (with my kids)
What has been your favorite read of the past year?
I can’t pick one. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series or Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient or Tana French’s Faithful Place.
What is one book that you think will (or should) become a classic in the next 30 (or 50) years? Why?
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series will become a classic in the next 50 years. It’s beautifully written, complex and emotional. According to The Cut on Tuesday (podcast episode 5), you can take a tour of Lila and Lenu’s neighborhood in Naples. Clearly, this is high on my bucket list.
Imagine this. You and a celebrity of your choice are becoming friends. They have asked you for a book rec. Who is the celebrity and what book do you recommend?
I don’t really follow celebrities, but I would love to persuade Reese Witherspoon to add Elena Ferrante’s The Neapolitan Series to her book club. Maybe then I could convince my friends to read it.
How do you choose your next read?
I mood read. For instance, I just read the first 4 books of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. They’re incredibly addictive. I loved Faithful Place, but I struggled through Broken Harbor. While it is well-written, it caused me too much anxiety. Therefore, I have been reading some light-hearted Christmas novels now. In a few weeks, I will get bored and read more Tana French. Also, a few of my friends and I read Reese Witherspoon’s monthly book pick and we chat about it over coffee/drinks.
What book meant the most to you as a child?
Easy. Harry Potter. The first Harry Potter book turned me into a reader. I struggled to learn how to read. However, Harry Potter changed everything. Since I was a young child, I have aspired to be Hermione Granger, and I know I’m a stronger, more confident woman because of her influence.
What is your favorite adaptation from book to film, theater, or television? What book do you wish would be adapted?
My guilty pleasure is Outlander, and the show on Starz is the perfect adaptation. I am thrilled Starz is producing Tana French’s The Dublin Murder Squad series.
What’s the one book everyone loves that you just cannot stand?
The Alchemist. I just don’t get it. I completely disagree with the premise that if you want something strongly enough, the universe conspires to find a way to give it to you. Maybe I misread it or maybe I’m naïve, but I couldn’t stand the book.
What is your favorite book set in or around the area where you live?
Sadly, I don’t have a favorite. I would love recommendations of books set in the Philadelphia area. My husband is a Philadelphia firefighter, and he loves his city.
What is one classic you think is not overrated?
Before we got married, my husband and I went on a break. I was heartbroken. I remember reading Wuthering Heights while I was sitting on a picturesque beach in Spain and sobbing uncontrollably. I wrote him love letters with quotes from the novel. It was pathetic, but no one understood my heartbreak quite like Catherine and Heathcliff.
If you had to declare yourself an expert in one extremely specific genre, what would it be?
I love books about deeply flawed, but loveable people (hence, Tana French).
What is your go-to book recommendation?
I always recommend Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter to anyone who isn’t an avid reader. It’s fast-moving and scientific, and most of my friends are self-proclaimed nerds. Whenever I have a friend who is struggling with their body-image, I recommend Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield.
What book changed your worldview in some way?
John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down changed the way I feel about my own anxiety and, consequently, the way I relate to the world. His book helped me to feel less alone, and I adore John Green. He understands adolescents and respects their intellect. Poorly written YA is condescending with its overly simplified plots and shallow dialogues. Critics complain that John Green’s articulate teenage characters are unrealistic, but I think most teenagers appreciate the respect he gives them. My high school students have intricate ideas, discuss difficult topics and can use expressive language. John Green gets that.
If you could inhabit the life of one fictional character for a day, who would you choose?
For one day, I would love to be Nina Redmond from Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner. Nina owns a mobile bookshop in Scotland, and that sounds idyllic- for a day. I would miss my kids too much to stay any longer.
Who do you think is the greatest female author?
I have mentioned so many female authors I love, but one I haven’t mentioned is Kristin Hannah. She is so talented at writing a captivating story with multifaceted characters. I love everything she writes, but my favorite is The Great Alone.
Reading helps me manage my anxiety and stress. I’m a young mom of 2 kids working full-time, earning my Principal Certification at night. My husband is incredibly supportive, but as a Philadelphia Firefighter, he works crazy hours. During one difficult period, both boys were under three and I was working 60-hour weeks as an actuary and having regular panic attacks. I truly thought I was dying. I started listening to Anne of Green Gables narrated by Rachel McAdams, and the stress melted away. (Side note: I also started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and switched careers. I don’t want to overly simplify anxiety, but I do want to stress that reading provided a temporary respite). Sometimes I just need to get out of my own head.
Additionally, reading is my favorite way to bond with my boys. We love to snuggle up with blankets and hot chocolate and read for hours. As a working mom, I always feel guilty. I feel pressure to do more in every capacity, but at the end of the night, when I’m reading with my kids, I feel at peace. For 20 minutes that day, I know I did something right.
What’s at the top of your TBR or wish list?
I am excited to read Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, and I can’t wait until it comes out in January.