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8 books about Turkey you really should read

When it comes to the world of literature, many books about the country of Turkey have been published. From travel guides to fictional romance stories, from present day issues to historical nations and events, there are hundreds to choose from. 


Including a Turkish woman who defied society, a travel writer who first come to Turkey in the 1960s and an author that has nearly been jailed for their books, we have selected 8 books that we have personally read and think expats or tourists will appreciate too. Enjoy…

Ayse’s Trail by Atulya K Bingham

Ayse’s Trail by Atulya K BinghamFocusing on the true story of a Turkish woman, who in the 1990s defied social protocol to divorce her abusive husband and trek the 516-kilometre Lycian way on the Mediterranean coast, Ayse’s Trail provokes many emotions from fear for her safety and admiration for her fiery independence and preserving attitude. 


This official government trekking route covers many ancient ruins from the historical Lycian empire so it is fitting that Atulya should also weave in the tale of Harpagos the Persian General of whom little is known about in history but he is widely suspected to have orchestrated invasion of the Lycian empire that eventually led to their downfall. This book will delight anyone with an interest in Turkish history, culture and personal life stories. 

Turkey Street by Jack Scott

Turkey Street by Jack ScottJack Scott specialises in the Expat niche of Turkey by recounting tales from his time spent living in the country, more specifically the Bodrum Peninsula of the Aegean coast. His first book, Perking the Pansies achieved sell-out success so he followed it up in 2015 with this latest sequel called Turkey Street. Jack Scott has a remarkable ability to write about eccentric British expats, hilarious daily events and topical issues such as domestic abuse and a fluctuating currency exchange rate, which eventually forced the couple to return to the UK.   


The introduction says…


“If Jack and Liam, a gay couple from London, wanted to shy away from curtain-twitchers, they couldn’t have chosen a worse position in Bodrum town. Grab your deck chair for a whirlwind tour of love and duty, passion and betrayal, broken hearts and broken bones, dirty politics and the dawn of a new Ottoman era.”

The Armchair Traveller’s History to Istanbul by Richard Tillinghast

The Armchair Traveller’s History to Istanbul by Richard TillinghastRichard’s first visit to Istanbul was in the 1960s when it was a transport hub for the now defunct Hippie Road trail. He has returned many times over the years, publishing his visits in offline travel guidebooks.


Eventually, he joined his own experiences and thoughts with historical snippets of the city.


The result is a perfect read that can either be viewed as a personal tale or an excellent guidebook.


Richard covers many areas of Istanbul including neighbourhoods, famous landmarks like the Topkapi palace and Hagia Sophia as well as the rarely talked about Asian side of Istanbul.

Lonely Planet Guide

Lonely Planet guidebook to TurkeyUndoubtedly the most famous travel book publishers on this Earth, the Lonely Planet guidebook to Turkey is a must for anyone planning to tour the country, and a good read for anyone who already lives in Turkey or is planning to move to the country.


Detailing brief introductions to various places, they also list vital information such as recommended restaurants, budget hotels and must-visit attractions.


If you plan to visit only one destination during your time in Turkey, take advantage of the special offer, in the Lonely Planet Shop on their website, to buy each chapter from just £2.09.  

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres

Birds Without Wings by Louis de BernieresThis book, published in 2004, instantly gained notoriety as readers speculated whether the setting was the ghost village of Kayakoy on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The plotline is an intriguing blend of heart-breaking romance, political aspirations and culture differences between the Greeks and Turks who lived side-by-side in many villages of Turkey. 


A treaty at the end of the Turkish War of Independence finished their coexistence but traces of Greek architecture still exist all over the country including the deserted village of Kayakoy.


This novel manages to blend an intensive plotline with historical facts that leaves the reader wanting to know more about the history of Turkey at the turn of the 20th century. 

Honour by Elif Safak

Honour by Elif SafakElif Shafak is undoubtedly the most famous female Turkish author having won many awards.  She has published many fictional books featuring various places throughout Turkey but her genre is most well-known for discussing issues of culture in among Turkey’s many ethnic communities. In her book called Honour, the plotline focuses on London and Turkey as a family struggles to cope with cultural differences and secrets that eventually make their way to the surface many years later. 


The 342 page book also strongly examines the relationship between a mother and son in Turkish culture when pride and stubbornness often come before logic.


The Guardian newspaper of the UK describes Elif as “an extremely popular novelist in Turkey, particularly loved by young, educated and newly independent women who appreciate her fusion of feminism and Sufism, her disarmingly quirky characters and the artful twists and turns of her epic romances.”

Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk

Istanbul by Orhan PamukThe moment, Orhan Pamuk publishes a book; a flurry at bookshops across the country sets in motion.


The most celebrated male Turkish author has won the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature and published many books but it seems fit that one of his best-selling is “Istanbul” because he grew up in the city while it transformed from a poor and destitute destination to the largest city in Turkey and a hub of tourism and business. 


Stories from his childhood are combined with the history of neighbourhoods in Istanbul, but Orhan Pamuk has elevated this book to perfection by collaborating with Ara Guler, Turkey’s most famous photographer, for the old black and white photographs of this city that was also famously the capital of both the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. 

Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

Mark Twin Innocents AbroadLastly, in one of our earlier posts, we discussed the chapters about Turkey in Mark Twain’s best-selling book called the “Innocents Abroad”.


He visited the country during the last years of reign by the Ottoman Empire and has amassed a fabulous account of what was then Constantinople.


This book is available for free download and you can read more about our review using the above link. 


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