Books I read about Turkey while in Turkey

Birds Without Wings

by Louis de Bernieres

A beautiful novel set in a rural Turkish village at the beginning of the 20th century. This expansive, multi-storyline book could stand on its literary merit alone, but I also appreciated that I learned a ton about the end of the Ottoman Empire, the beginning of the Turkish Republic, and the complicated relationship between Turkey and Greece. If you read only one of these books (and I think you should read all three), this is the one I’d recommend.

The Bastard of Istanbul

by Eli Shafak

This novel is mostly set in modern-day Istanbul (with flashbacks) and explores family, culture, and identity. It took me a while to get attached to the characters in the book, but I very much did by the end, and I loved how several plots and stories eventually wove together. Shafak was charged (and then acquitted) by the Turkish government of “denigrating Turkishness” for some of her characters’ statements about the Armenien genocide.

The Museum of Innocence

by Orhan Pamuk

This novel is a glimpse into the upper classes of Istanbul in the 1970s. I bought this novel after researching places to visit in Istanbul and realizing that the Museum of Innocence was create by Pamuk as a manifestation of the museum described in the novel. I downloaded the book the night before I visited the museum and read as much as I could before visiting (and then finished more slowly afterwards.) I pretty strongly disliked the controlling, self-absorbed main character and yet loved Pamuk’s writing.


The links above will take you to, where I am an affiliate. All opinions are my own!