Life in Turkey

9 “must read” books about Turkey!

Are you looking for books about Turkey ? As an expatriate in Turkey i can always relax best on my balcony in Turkey while reading a good book.

In this regard, I would like to introduce you to my compilation of the most interesting books about Turkey by authors from.

Maybe you will find something that is just for you!

Most of the lists of recommended reading from Turkey represent the top travel guides.

Okay: I have included two travel guides in my list.

I personally find stories, historical narratives and autobiographies by Turkish writers more interesting. After all, Turkey has earned a high reputation in the world of literature even before its first  Nobel Prize winner was won for the writer Orhan Pamuk.

Books about Turkey

1. Orhan Pamuk – The Museum of Innocence

Museum of Innocence is the first book published by Orhan Pamuk after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. The story takes place in 1975 in Istanbul. It is about Kemal, Sibel, Füsun and collecting objects. Kemal and Sibel come from a respected family. They are supposed to get married soon. Füsün is a distant friend of Kemal. The beautiful saleswoman, together with the increasingly common western ways of life in Istanbul, represents the gap that is opening up between his life and traditional values ​​such as “virginity in marriage”.

Throughout the story, Kemal begins collecting objects as symbols of his lovesickness. They represent a kind of roadmap helping him to navigate between the Turkish culture in transition and his own essence.

It has been called the perfect novel for all women who are in a relationship with a Turkish man (to quote a friend). A more detailed table of contents can be seen on Amazon.

Orhan Pamuk has created a history-appropriate museum exhibit in Istanbul. It exhibits the fictitious objects that Kemal collected in the story. The former insider tip has now become one of the most popular sights in the city. I haven’t been there yet myself. The reviews in TripAdvisor are quite favourable. The “Museum of Innocence” was voted 33rd out of 939 possible activities by visitors to Istanbul. I’ll go take a  a look at it the next time I visi.

2. Honour from Elif Shafak

Elif Safak is by far the most well-known Turkish writer. Her award-winning books about Turkey are set in many different regions within Turkey as a backdrop. In her fictional stories, she describes the cultural conflicts between the many ethnic groups living in Turkey.

The 300-page book Honour (“Ehre” in Turkish) is about the life of a mother with her son. The storyline is set between Turkey and London in the 1970s. Conflicts arise between the different societal norms. Family behaviour is influenced by pride and stubbornness, instead of rational motives. The end result is a brutal murder.

The book fascinated me from beginning to end. It never, for a moment, got boring. You can read a more detailed description of the book  on Amazon. As always, this is just a tidbit to whet your appetite.

3. The Unsuspecting Abroad by Mark Twain

Mark Twain is most likely the most famous American writer of the 19th century. His stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn have found their place among the works of world-class literature.

Interestingly, this best-selling book by Mark Twain is less well known than many of his other works. It is a kind of travel diary, his journey through Europe and the old Ottoman Empire to the land of today’s Israel.

To the innocent abroad, not only does he describe Turkey in his great writing style. He also discusses many other countries that he and his friends have seen along the way.

Some Turks may not think kindly of how he describes his meeting with Sultan Abdul Aziz. In any case, he did not leave Twain with a favourable impression. By all means, refer to the book evaluation on Amazon.

4. Ayses’s Trail by Atulya K. Bingham

Over time, the Lycian long-distance hiking trail is becoming more and more popular. In the meantime, it has almost become an alternative to the Camino de Santiago.

The book Ayses’s Trail successfully combines a true story of a Turkish woman, a historical tale and a travel guide for the 500-kilometer hike along the Lycian Way from Fethiye to Antalya.

The story was recorded by Ayse’s friend Atulya. It tells the life of his girlfriend, interwoven with a 2,500-year-old story of a Persian general. It completely deviates from the expectations of traditional Turkish society.

Currently, the book is only available in English and of course, in its native Turkish. You can check out the paperback and Kindle reviews here.

5. Dream made of Stone and Feathers by Louis de Bernieres

The book, published in 2004, is set in the 1920s at the ghost town of Kaykoy, during the Turkish-Greek War,. In the classic style, it is about love affairs between young people who are living side by side while fighting the enemy.

This war ended centuries of coexistence between the Greeks and Turks. As a result, millions of Turks and Greeks had to move to the new nation states of their peoples.

Up until 1923, there were villages along the Turkish south coast with a very prominent Greek majority and culture. The same was true along the Greek coast. For example, the legendary founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was born in Thessaloniki.

The book, Dream of Stone and Feathers describes the story of people who have to part ways due to war. It provides the reader with historical facts from the war. By the end of the book, you will surely want to know more about the country’s history at the beginning of the last century. You can check the book description on Amazon.

6. An Armchair Traveler’s History of Istanbul by Richard Tillinghast

Richard Tillinghast first visited Turkey in 1960. Back then, Istanbul was one of the hotspots on the hippie trail towards Southeast Asia. The stories in the book fit in accordingly with that era. Hashish is smoked in the pudding shop, the hippie meeting place in Istanbul.  Money is exchanged on the black market and people sleep on the floor of the Orient Express train station.

The whole book presents Turkey in a completely different light. The stories about what was then and now forbidden are also combined with historical tales.  Stories are shared from the lives of Turks, Jews, Armenians and the Turkish hippies. In a nutshell: An Armchair Traveler’s History of Istanbul shows Turkey at its best and at its worst.

The book is available on Amazon in English only.

7. Instructions for Use for Turkey by Iris Alanyali

The book deals with all the worries and questions that tourists might experience in Turkey. Example: Rules of conduct in a hammam; how to buy a Turkish carpet in Izmir; the ubiquitous image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; the grandmother’s role in a Turkish family, among other relevant themes ….

The Instructions for Use for Turkey, apart from being an ordinary travel guide, are dedicated to precisely these social questions of German-speaking vacationers to Turkey, as well as emigrants, digital nomads and long-term visitors.

In the book, Iris Alanyalis describes the peculiarities of her compatriots and the country in geneal in a really entertaining style. It is available as a Kindle, hardcover, or paperback edition, which fits nicely in one’s pocket. Refer to Amazon for the table of contents of Instructions for Use for Turkey.

It doesn’t work without a guide

8. Instructions for Use for Istanbul by Kai Strittmatter

As of the publication date, Kai Strittmatter had already lived in the city on the Bosporus for four years. Instructions for Use for Istanbul describes Istanbul as one of the ten most visited cities in the world with its highlights, peculiarities and curiosities.

Here, you will find tips on all types of topics about traveling, eating and living in the 15 million-inhabited metropolis. It covers: sites to see, Turkish food and drinks, recommendations, featuring restaurants, hotels and lifestyle trends in Istanbul. It also provides insider travel tips and cultural norms that need to be taken into account when visiting this multicultural city.

 The printed version can be conveniently placed in your travel bag. The user manual is also available as a Kindle e-book. A detailed table of contents and reviews by its readers can be found on Amazon.

9. Lonely Planet Travel Guide Turkey or Insight Guide Turkey

The Lonely Planet Guide for Turkey is the most comprehensive travel guide, compared to all the other books about Turkey. In this 800-page book, you will find information about Eastern Anatolia as well as Istanbul. Of course, the well-known legends are described in the greatest detail.

Lonely Planet has traditionally geared its travel guides to individual tourists. Naturally, you will find all types of information about hotels, hostels, the country itself, local currency, restaurants, peculiarities and even public transport timetable. Unfortunately, the transportation itineraries are already outdated by the release date.

Due to the lack of German-language travel guides available, the Lonely Planet Turkey Travel Guide is my recommendation.

Alternatively, you can take a look at the English book Insight Guide Turkey. It is only about half as thick as the Lonely Planet, but information on the most commonly visited sites  is much better prepared than the Lonely Planet guide. Therefore, it is for me the best  travel guide available for Turkey.

Choose Lonely Planet: – If you want to make your way through Turkey on your own  and explore unknown areas.

Insight Guide Turkey: – Best for everything else (Cappadocia, Istanbul, south coast, etc.). This book is only available in English.

Spotlight on you: Which books about Turkey do you recommend?