Great Reads About Turkey: Recommended books to enjoy this spring

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Books about or set in Turkey

To celebrate World Book Day, we’re escaping back to the books that further define our love and fascination with Turkey. Here, we share a selection of our favourite reads to get lost in this spring.

Turkish Awakening Book by Alev Scott

Turkish Awakening: A Personal Discovery of Modern Turkey

by Alev Scott (memoir)

Born in London to a Turkish mother and British father, Alev Scott moved to Istanbul to discover what it means to be Turkish in a country going through rapid political and social change. Relating wide-ranging interviews and colourful personal experience, the author charts the evolving course of a country bursting with surprises in this candid memoir.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

The Bastard of Istanbul

by Elif Shafak (fiction)

A coming of age tale of Turkish teen Asya who is under the wing of her tattoo-parlour owner mother and her three aunts. Aysa befriends a cousin from America and discovers a secret that links her family to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Author Elif Şafak faced up to three years in prison for her views presented in this novel, with a national prosecutor claiming that she had sympathies towards the purported Armenian genocide through her characters in the book.

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

The Museum of Innocence

by Orhan Pamuk (fiction/memoir)

It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal and Sibel, children of two prominent families, are about to become engaged. But when Kemal encounters Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl, and distant relation, he becomes enthralled. Orhan Pamuk’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize is a stirring exploration of the nature of romance.

Tales from the Expat Harem

Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey

by Anastasia M. Ashman, Jennifer Eaton Gokmen, Jessica J.J. Lutz (anthology)

This illuminating anthology provides a window into the country from the perspective of thirty-two expatriates from seven different nations – artists, entrepreneurs, Peace Corps volunteers, archaeologists, missionaries, and others who established lives in Turkey for work, love, or adventure.

Under the Shadow by Kaya Genc

Under the Shadow

by Kaya Genç (non-fiction)

Acclaimed writer Kaya Genc has been covering his country for the past decade. In Under the Shadow he meets activists from both sides of Turkey’s political divide: Gezi park protestors who fought tear gas and batons to transform their country’s future, and supporters of the country’s conservative vision who are no less passionate in their activism. He talks to artists and authors, censored journalists and conservative writers, Wall Street types as well as the young Islamic entrepreneurs.

Memed, My Hawk Turkish Book

Memed, My Hawk

by Yaşar Kemal (fiction)

A tale of high adventure and lyrical celebration, tenderness and violence, generosity and ruthlessness, Memed, My Hawk is the defining achievement of one of the greatest and most beloved of living writers, Yaşar Kemal.

Belshazzar's Daughter by Barbara Nadel

Belshazzar's Daughter
(first book in the Inspector Ikmen crime series)

by Barbara Nadel (fiction)

Balat, Istanbul: a decrepit neighbourhood of narrow, twisting alleys and crumbling tenements. Until recently it was home to Leonid Meyer, a reclusive elderly Jew who, like many of his neighbours, came here long ago to escape one of Europe’s various bloodbaths. But Meyer’s refuge ultimately became his coffin. Enter Inspector Ikmen…
Barbara Nadel’s intimate expertise with Istanbul means that her crime novels are incredibly accurate as she weaves elements of Turkish culture and society into her ‘’whodunnit’’ series of books.

Ataturk Rebirth of a Nation

Atatürk: The Rebirth of a Nation

by Patrick Kinross (non-fiction)

If there is one book to read about the transition of the crumbling Ottoman Empire to the modern, secularist country of Turkey through the vision and actions of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, this is it.

Portrait of a Turkish Family

Portrait of a Turkish Family

by Irfan Orga (memoir)

Set in Istanbul during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the narrative is a chilling, yet affectionate account of a wealthy Turkish family during the early 20th century, and the eventual demise and polarization brought on by war when the family structure ruptures.

Birds Without Wings Book Cover

Birds Without Wings

by Louis de Bernières (fiction)

The author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin returns to intertwine historical fiction with actual events through a series of chapters that switch between history and storyline.  Set in the now abandoned ghost village of Kayaköy near modern Fethiye, the book explores the results of the Greek-Turkish population exchange in the 1920s, and the social ramifications thereof.

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