Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.
Until Sofia Coppola directs her five-part adaptation for Apple TV+, we have the reissue of Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (Penguin Classics), for which she wrote the foreword. For now, she’s currently directing her next film, Priscilla, based on Priscilla Presley’s book, Elvis and Me (Coppola’s on-set playlist here). Her other movies include: The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, for which she won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere, which won the 2010 Golden Lion in Venice, The Bling Ring, The Beguiled, for which she won 2017 Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, and On the Rocks.
The Napa Valley-raised New Yorker has lended her talents to fashion (collaborates with Chanel, designed the SC bag for Louis Vuitton; directed projects for Christian Dior); the arts (directed shorts for the New York City Ballet and staged La Traviata for the Rome Opera with costumes designed by Valentino), and photography (including shooting Paris Hilton for Elle).
She interned at Chanel at 15; would be a teacher if she weren’t a filmmaker; is on the board of the Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation; bought herself a Cartier watch after filming Marie Antoinette; had cameos in Star Wars: Episode I–the Phantom Menace and What We Do in the Shadows; and has her own wine.
Loves: revival houses, late ’60s style and the Richard Avedon Foundation IG feed, hotels. Here, the reads that have stayed with her.
The book that…
…I recommend over and over again:
Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima—a beautiful tragic love story set in the Taishō period in Japan.
…I swear I’ll finish one day:
On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, by my bed and is very short, but I can only get through a few pages at a time, but great insights and reminders on how to live and the value your time.
…currently sits on my nightstand:
David Sedaris’s Happy-Go-Lucky. Love reading this right now while I’m working and it’s a break and a companion I look forward to while away from home. So funny and touching and makes me feel connected.
…I’d pass on to my kid:
All About Love by bell hooks. I love her thoughtfulness on this topic
…I’d give to a new graduate:
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion. I love [the essay] ‘On Being Unchosen By the College of One’s Choice’ and the line in the introduction by Hilton Als: ‘…Part of the remarkable character of Didion’s work has to do with her refusal to pretend that she doesn’t exist.’
…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. I’d like to see the movie directed by Emerald Fennell and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Riz Ahmed. [Ed. note: New Regency owns the film and television rights to this book.]
…I first bought:
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. As a teenager, I thought it was the coolest and led me to NYC.
…I last bought:
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. I couldn’t put it down. It was so moving and funny and hopeful how someone can emerge from that trauma and chaos and find themselves as an artist.
…has the best title:
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. I loved that book in my youth, I love a tragic romance, that is the ultimate for unrequited love.
…has the greatest ending:
The Custom of the Country! I love the ending—the last paragraph is so good! I remember where I was that moment finishing it and the impact it had.
…broke my heart:
The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen. I was walking around in a daze the day I finished it.
…grew on me:
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson. Vendela Vida told me about it, and it was hard for me to get into (I’m a challenged reader) and takes a while to get into, but when you do, it’s hard to put down.
…I’ve re-read the most:
Anna Karenina. I love a tragic love story and torn woman.
…that holds the recipe to a favorite dish:
Bonus question: If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be:
Three Lives in the West Village, New York.
Riza Cruz is an editor and writer based in New York.