My Turkish Book Collection

Travel and Non-fiction Narrative

Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds
By Stephen Kinzer
As Kinzer was the Istanbul bureau chief for the New York Times for 4 years, his writing style blurs the boundaries between travel writing, political commentary and historical narrative with a distinctive journalistic flair.  To learn more about Turkey on various levels, this would be a good book to start with.

Traveling with Pomegranates
By Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
Co-written by mother (Sue Monk) and daughter (Ann Kidd), this travelogue could also be considered a joint-memoir.  This short read has an introspective bent, with Sue and Ann constantly seeking to understand their journeys' through life and through the world as the venture to sacred places in Greece, Turkey and France. 

A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat
By Jeremy Seal
Who could think that a hat would inspire an entire journey and help to write a travel book?  Well, Jeremy did his best to use the fez as the essential thread throughout his writing.  Sometimes he tries a little too hard to squeeze in his fez fetish.  For the most part, the search for the fez in modern Turkey sparks many interesting (and some not so interesting) conversations with Turks around the country and Jeremy has certainty does his research in relation to the historical significance of the fez and how it became outlawed with the new Turkish Republic.  His writing style may click with some, but for me I found it a little dry and difficult to trod through. 

Porcelain Moon and Pomegranates: A Woman's Trek Through Turkey
By Ustun Bilgen-Reinart
Without a doubt, a fantastic book for those interested in Turkey, women's issues in the Middle East, environmental change, or just for those interested in learning about another culture. Bilgen constantly blends historical facts with travel experiences, interviews and her own personal family stories.  I could not put this book down, but at the same time I savored each chapter. While Bilgen explores some of Turkey's darker issues, she does so with grace and compassion. She never seems to judge too harshly, or condescend those with a life different than her own. Perhaps as Bilgen is Turkish, but has spent substantial time in Canada, she seems to analyze Turkey in a unique way that is unlike anything I have read in the Turkish travel genre. She is honest and open about Turkey's mistakes and flaws (after all, every country has them), but she also appreciates the small pleasures that life in Turkey can offer. She relates her past and her present in such a way that I feel her nostalgia seeping through the pages.

Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea: An American Woman's Letters to Turkey
By Katharine Branning
Katharine's exceptionally open-mind and heart helped her travel through Turkey for over 30 years.  She has a lot to share about her travels, such as unexpected and touching moments with strangers, what she has learned about Turkish culture, and advice to build a more compassionate world.  This is a great book for those that are about to travel to Turkey, have traveled in Turkey for years, and especially for those that will never go, but would like to learn more about Turkish society and culture.  I wrote a longer review about her book, which can be found here.

Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam Move to Turkey
By Jack Scott
Jack tells the story of how he and his husband, Liam, moved to Bodrum, Turkey and started a life among the craziest of crazy expats.  While reading the first few chapters I found myself laughing out loud at the hilarity of what some of these expats would do and say.  Jack captured it all very well and he has a witty writing style that captivates.  He also does not hesitate to share some of the darker moments he experienced in Turkey.  This is a great travel narrative for those wishing to know more about what it might be like to live in Turkey and get a good laugh at the quirky expats that Jack and Liam run into.  

Classical Turkey: Architectural Guides for Travelers
By John Freely

Description to come soon!

Link to buy this book:
Classical Turkey (Architectural Guides for Travelers)

Istanbul: The Collected Traveler
An Inspired Companion Guide
Edited by Barrie Kerper
A gem of an anthology with essays and commentary from a wide range of voices, both Turks and expats .   While focused mostly on Istanbul-inspired personalities, monuments and even restaurants, there are also sections about Turkey in general and some focus on surrounding cities such as Bursa, Edirne and Gallipoli.  Each section is full of great quotes and recommended reading that will keep my reading list growing for some time to come.  Not a travel book by any means, it is indeed a reader that can accompany a journey or simply allow greater exploration from home.

Essential Turkish Novels

Snow (Kar)
By Orhan Pamuk
An exquisite novel that explores the dark heart of a Turkish poet, Ka, exiled from Turkey and returning from Germany to an altered Istanbul and a romantic notion to find an old flame.  Ka journeys to the city of Kars to meet face to face with his crush only to find himself ensnared in a perplexing drama that is engulfing the city and causing a wave of suicides among religious girls forbidden to wear their headscarves.  Don't expect a simple message, this novel has many dark corners and deep moments that will keep you thinking long after you finish the last page.

Blood Tie
By Mary Lee Settle
This novel will surely tickle all the expats living in coastal towns in Turkey.  Mary writes this fictional story based on her experiences living in the Bodrum region during the 1970's.  Not a typical expat narrative - this novel keeps you on your toes as the viewpoint changes quite frequently - allowing you to hear the inner monologue of all the essential and complicated characters in this tangled tale, from the mute village boy to all the confused expats.  Blood Tie is a great summer read, but beware it's hard to put down.

The Bastard of Istanbul
By Elif Shafak

Summary coming soon!

The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi
By Elif Shafak
A novel that truly transports the reader into another time, another world.  This is a good book to accompany soul searching, mind expanding and general intellectual inquires.  You can read a longer review of this book that I previously wrote on the blog several months ago.

The Flea Palace
By Elif Shafak

Description coming soon!

Garden's of Water
By Alan Drew
Set predominantly in the aftermath following the 1999 Marmara earthquake, Drew's novel explores the complex relationships between the members of two families - a traditional, Kurdish Muslim one and a confused, Christian American one.  Bound by tragedy and survival, the fate of these families are intertwined so that they are destined to suffer loss after loss.  If you love Hollywood endings, this book is not for you.  It explores the reality of anti-American, and anti-missionary sentiments that are deeply rooted in history and many, many years of experience by Turks, Kurds and many other ethnic identities in the Mideast.  As his first book, Drew did a fine job.

Birds Without Wings
By Louis De Bernieres

Description coming soon!


Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood and the Harem Within
By Elif Shafak
Elif shares her inner voices and demons with us all in this inspiring memoir about one woman's journey to balance writing and a woman's life.  I've written a longer review of this memoir, which can be found here

Istanbul: Memories and the City
By Orhan Pamuk

Description coming soon!

The Turkish Embassy Letters
By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Description coming soon!

Historical and Political Non-fiction
The New Turkish Republic: Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World
By Graham E. Fuller

Description coming soon!

Lords of the Horizon: A History of the Ottoman Empire
By Jason Goodwin

Description coming soon!

The Turks Today
By Andrew Mango

Description coming soon!

Turkish Cookbooks

The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories
By Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman
This was my first Turkish cookbook, so I'm particularly fond of it.  What I love is that it is divided into the different regions of Turkey, with each section providing mezes, soups, main dishes, salads and dessert.  Some recipes are easier than others, but there is a wide variety of Turkish staples and more extensive recipes for elaborate meals.  I am continually looking into the book to find new dishes to try.  The photos are fantastic as well!

Classical Turkish Cooking: Traditional Turkish Food for the American Kitchen
By Ayla Algar
So far, I have been impressed with the background information provided in this cookbook. Ayla provides ample information on Turkish ingredients and food culture in each section of this cookbook.  However, I find that most of the recipes are somewhat extensive and perhaps too involved for someone like me.  There are too few soup recipes as well, but I'm especially fond of Turkish soup.  It does have lots of good stuff that I'm hoping to get my hands dirty trying out - like homemade simit!

***Each image above is an affiliate link to Amazon.  I provide honest reviews, if you use the link I may get a few pennies.  Just a disclaimer.***

This list is not by any means exhaustive!  In fact, there are a few books I still need to add that I recently acquired   If you have any suggestions, please add your comment below.  I appreciate the feedback as well.

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