Books to Read if You’re Going to Turkey

Having been a keen traveller for years, I have also been an avid reader. These two passions easily overlap as, while planning trips, I love reading about places I will visit to see if I can improve my cultural understanding and appreciation of a new place and I also enjoying revisiting, through books, places I have been. While we’re all temporarily grounded (thanks Covid-19), I thought I’d share some posts about travel literature during this period of solitude. I’m going to start with Turkey.

Having lived in Turkey for a number of years myself, albeit a while ago now, these days I am mostly reminiscing when I read books set there, either reliving my own blundering expat experiences, or enjoying references to the cultural details I miss or some of the delicious dishes….hmmmmm! However, there are several titles that also present a worthwhile introduction to this complex and fascinating country, and would also provide some useful insight for the first-time visitor.

Here, in no particular order, are my reading recommendations:


A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

Possibly Turkey’s most famous author, Pamuk writes such beautiful prose about his country that you can’t help be bewitched by his books and transported to Turkey. This is a story telling the lives of ordinary people against the backdrop of Istanbul’s evolution for the past 50 years that brings the streets of the city alive.

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

An exciting murder mystery set in the 1500s in the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan’s Palace. If you’re into history, you’ll love this, and think about it as you tour Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace!

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

A deeply felt love story set between 1975 and the present day exploring societal difficulties of individuals caught between living traditional and western lives. (I’ll stop listing Pamuk books now, but he’s written several, so if these don’t grab your interest particularly, look him up. I’m sure another will).

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres

A love story set in the time of the 1923 population exchange of Christians and Muslims between Greece and Turkey, inspired by what is nowadays a ghost village in south west Turkey.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

Modern fiction following a Turkish family in Istanbul and Armenian family living in the USA, who are both descended from children rescued by American missionaries in 1915.

Without a Country by Ayse Kulin

Historical fiction following the experiences of a German Jewish family forced to flee Germany at the outbreak of World War II, and exploring the culture clashes they encounter as they, and subsequent generations, face as they settle in Turkey.

Last Letter from Istanbul by Lucy Foley

Historical fiction / love story set in Istanbul and following the efforts of a Turkish woman and an English Army Medical Officer to protect a young boy caught in the crossfire of the outbreak of World War II.



A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal

This book details the author’s journey around Turkey investigating the significance of the Fez, providing an illuminating and entertaining portrait of the country.

The Yoghurt Man Cometh by Kevin Revolinski

An amusing memoir of an American man’s year-long experience as an English teacher in Ankara. This book highlights several of the initially incomprehensible details of Turkish culture visitors may well encounter.

Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott

A modern day memoir of Jack and Liam’s bumpy adventures making a life for themselves, as a married gay couple in Bodrum on the south coast.

Turkey is an inspiring place! What have you read that was about or set in Turkey? Please share any recommendations you have in the comments.

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