From classical to contemporary, historical to travel, what to read for inspiration on Turkey
Istanbul, Memories of a City, Orhan Pamuk
Poignant, lyrical childhood memoir from Turkey’s foremost writer that brings the monuments, dilapidated Ottoman villas, backstreets and waterways of the anarchic, unusual city of his birth brilliantly to life. One of his earlier works, Black Book, is a fictional evocation of Istanbul in the repressive mid-1980s, a twisted detective novel that tackles the question of Turkey’s cultural identity and reveals the city to be complex and crumbling.
Faber and Faber, £9.99
A Fez of the Heart, Jeremy Seal
A wry, lively quest for the heart of a country by way of the history of a hat that symbolises Turkey’s cultural fault line. Not so much a book about headgear as an eccentric, entertaining portrait of a contradictory country culturally and spiritually at odds with itself, which reveals the tensions of Turkish life.
Turkish Coast Through Writers’ Eyes, Various
Excellent anthology of classical and contemporary writings, from the Odyssey and Plutarch to Freya Stark and Louis de Bernière, that examines the stretch of coast from Izmir to Antalya, covering subjects as varied as archaeological discovery, the march of Alexander’s army, the pleasures of the hammam and Turkish cooking.
Rebel Land, Christopher de Bellaigue
Acclaimed account of a journey to Turkey’s inhospitable eastern provinces to examine the legacy of the violent conflict between Turks, Kurds and Armenians. Intensely personal and rigorously researched, it throws light on a dark subject, sifts fact from propaganda, partisan accounts and vague oral histories, and allows the reader to make up their own mind.
Lords of the Horizon, Jason Goodwin
A loosely chronological history of the Ottoman Empire from its swift expansion to protracted decline, full of cultural snapshots that illuminate a variety of aspects of Ottoman life, from an author also responsible for a series of cleverly crafted, playfully humorous novels about a crime-solving eunuch in 1840s Istanbul.
Alex Stewart, group product manager, Stanfords travel bookshop (12-14 Long Acre, London and 29 Corn Street, Bristol)