Francois Ozon: TOP TEN BOOKS

Francois Ozon

“My mother was a French teacher, so literature was very important to the family,” says Francois Ozon, the acclaimed film director behind such contemporary classics as 8 Women and Swimming Pool. The director, who in 2002 adapted one of his favorite novels – Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel – describes his childhood reading as a way to understand the world. “I was so curious as a young child, and I was a dreamer, and books were a way to discover the other side of my reality,” he says. “It’s like finding the secret behind the door. My problem with literature now is that I’m always thinking as a director, so when I read a book I’m viewing it through a director’s prism: would it make a good movie? When I was young and only dreaming of becoming a director I could be fully lost in a book.” Ozon’s latest movie, Summer of ’85, is currently on general release.

Below are Francois Ozon’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.


Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë
I dove into Wuthering Heights when I was 15 or 16, and read it in a single sitting, starting in the afternoon and reading late into the night. I was thrilled by the idea of passionate love. It’s a very English novel, very gothic, whereas French romanticism is more rooted in disillusion. We had a big library in our home and my parents let me read whatever I wanted, but I was mainly excited by the books, like this one, tucked away on the highest shelves.
Add to cart

The Lily of the Valley

Honoré de Balzac
I read this for school, and didn’t fully understand it at the time but I remember that I found it shocking. In contrast to Wuthering Heights, this is romanticism in the French style. It’s the story of an older woman, Henreitte de Mortsaud and a young suitor; they have big conversations, they talk about love, but they never have sex.

Out of stock

Currently unavailable

After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie

Jean Rhys
A friend of mine recommended this to me in my twenties as a suggestion for a film because Rhys is so good at portraying women’s lives, all of which are in various ways portraits of herself. I love the book, I love the writing, and I love the story of Jean Rhys herself - she was obscure, and unlucky in love for most of her life, and only became famous in her seventies. For the final years of her life she had champagne, money, and esteem but she complained that it had all come too late.
Add to cart

The Waves

Virginia Woolf
I love the structure of The Waves, which I read in my twenties: to make a portrait of someone who is dead, in which each character has their own point of view, felt truly radical. It’s reminiscent of the Mankiewicz movie, The Barefoot Contessa, but like Marcel Proust she is a writer who would be very difficult to adapt in movies. Neither of them are as concerned with story as they are with feelings, sensations.
Add to cart

Survival in Auschwitz

Primo Levi
My mother suggested I read this as a teenager. I remember crying as I read the book. There is a kind of hope in his account of life in Auschwitz that makes his own life story--Levi committed apparent suicide in 1987--all the more devastating. I was destroyed by that. This book is a little forgotten today, but if I had a child I’d ask them to read it because it's a lesson on life, and about history and memory.
Add to cart


Elizabeth Taylor
Angel is the only book I ever adapted into a movie. It’s the ego of a writer who is utterly selfish, like a a portrait of what an artist doesn’t want to become. It’s very funny, very clever, but I now think I should have made it in French.
Add to cart

Time Regained

Marcel Proust
The final volume of In Search of Lost Time functions as a key to the whole series, summarizing what’s come before. You can return to Proust at any point, just a few pages can prompt reflection. It’s such a pleasure to read his descriptions of feelings, of characters. It’s like a Bible for people who love literature, and probably impossible to adapt as a movie. Perhaps the only director who could have done so was Luchino Visconti, who in fact tried to do so, and failed.
Add to cart


Vladimir Nabokov
I read Lolita as a teenager, and would love to reread it from the perspective of these times. Is it a novel in favor of paedophilia or against paedophilia? I think it’s very ambiguous, not least because the reader is in Humbert Humbert’s head. That kind of ambiguity would make it impossible to publish today.
Add to cart

A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Roland Barthes
This is a book I turn to when I am stuck or lost. As with Proust, there is always something to learn. I found it in my mother’s library, and I know she was a big fan of the book, so reading it was a way to understand her.
Add to cart

Forbidden Colors

Yukio Mishima
All of Mishima’s books are exotic for us occidental people - they’re very Japanese, with themes of sacrifice, of guilt, of cruelty and humility, and a lot of trauma. Being gay was a big deal for Mishima, and here he describes the gay community of the 50s and 60s in Japan. It’s a book I’d love to adapt but I think that’s impossible because Mishima’s widow turns down all adaptations of his work.
Add to cart