With Christmas fast approaching it’s time to think about presents that leave lasting memories. To me, that always means a book, and if it’s connected to Turkey in some way, even better. I’ve read hundreds of books on Turkey so deciding on titles to include in this list was hard work. In the end I decided to include those I’ve reviewed and really liked, as well as others with writing and scenes that have stayed with me. And as my present to myself, I’ve included the books I’ve written on the list too.
I love Istanbul and reading a good crime story that’s full of intrigue rather than gore. If you’re the same then Barbara Nadel is the author for you. I suggest you start with Belshazzar’s Daughter: Inspector Ikmen. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
If you’re looking for a good laugh, follow the adventures of Lei, as she sets out on one final quest to find Mr Right, and a few thousand vodkas along the way in The Final Summer of Vodka: the Marmaris Diaries. You can read my review here.
In The Pull of It, the main character of the book is Laura, a wife and mother who finds herself living a life she never planned on. Through her the author Wendy Fox explores the idea that we can find ourselves by getting lost. Here’s my review. What do you think?
Yashar Kemal became internationally famous when he became a candidate for the Nobel Prize of literature for his book Mehmet My Hawk. He championed the plight of agricultural workers, and created many memorable characters in his books.
I have been reading Orhan Pamuk since forever, and know people either love him or hate him. Many of his books are hard to read, but if you only ever read one, make it Istanbul: Memories and the City. It reads like a love letter to the city, full of loss and longing, written by an inhabitant who suffers from the very Turkish, untranslatable state, huzun.
At the opposite end of the scale are the rollicking adventures of Jack Scott who moved to Turkey in search of sun, sea and something more. Read about it in my review of Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam move to Turkey.
Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul is my real life look at what it’s like to reside in modern Istanbul. Here’s what one reader had to say.
Politics & History
Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds is an engrossing look at Turkey, the people, politics and contradictions. The author, Stephen Kinzer, is one of those foreign correspondents able to get straight to the heart of the matter, and write about Turkey as it is, rather than through the eyes of an outsider.
In his book, A Fez of the Heart, Jeremy Seal explores the Turkish world of Arabesque, questionable political practices and the sheer joy and energy that always captivates the hearts and minds of visitors to the country.
Alev Scott arrived in Istanbul just before the upheaval of the Gezi Park protests and major changes to the governance of the country. Turkish Awakening is her attempt to make sense of the country where her mother was born, and to better understand herself. Read my full review here.
Back in the early 18th century, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu accompanied her husband to Constantinople when he was appointed British ambassador to the Sublime Porte. Lady Mary was given unprecedented access to the world of the women in the Ottoman court and revealed all in her book, The Turkish Embassy Letters.
Click here to read what Natalie Sayin of the informative Turkish Travel Blog thinks of my book Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries.
Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey – eds. Anastasia M Ashman & Jennifer Eaton Gökmen. Anyone who wonders what it’s like to be a foreign woman living in Turkey should read this classic collection of stories.
My first collection of essays, Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City came about because I wanted to people to understand the things they see hear and experience when they spend time in Istanbul. Not the places tourist goes, but the real everyday streets where ordinary Turks live. Here’s what someone who’s read it thought.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my views on cooking. I can do it, but I much prefer to eat. I also love to travel which is why I’m including Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey on this list. I’m in the middle of working on a review of Robyn Eckhardt’s wonderful selection of recipes, but keep getting stuck in daydreams brought on by the mesmerising photos by David Hagerman. You will be too.
To get to the heart of Istanbul you have to walk the streets, and there’s no better guide to use than Strolling through Istanbul by Hilary Sumner-Boyd & John Freely. It was first published in 1973, and goes into extraordinary detail of the marvellous sites Istanbul has to offer. I’ve followed many of the walking routes outlined in the book and have never been disappointed.
More than a coffee table book, Ara Güler’s Istanbul: 40 Years of Photographs is an exquisite collection of life in the city of Istanbul as it appears in our dreams. Using his unique perspective, Güler captured the everyday routines of fishermen, shoe shiners, street vendors and all the men and women who peopled the streets of the city. If you love Istanbul this book will immediately take you back there.
You can buy all these books online using the links I’ve provided, or order them from your local bookshop. And once you’ve bought all your presents this year, don’t forget to buy one for yourself.
Have a very merry Noel Bayramı everyone!