Planning a trip to Turkey? Considering the destination, this vacation is going to be nothing less than amazing! But before you pack your bags and travel to a nation so different from your own, you should consider doing some reading.
There is much to learn about any nation, country, or region in general that you’re not familiar with. Istanbul is a major city in Turkey. The many empires that once ruled there left their influence, leaving Istanbul rich in culture and history.
Did you know that Istanbul is the only city in the entire world that is considered both Asia and Europe geographically? It’s a pretty interesting fact that many probably don’t know. But this fact and many more can be learned by reading books about Turkey.
So before you head out on your Turkey vacation, check out these 14 books and 5 movies that will have you prepared for your trip!
Why Consider Reading Books About Turkey Before Your Trip?
As you’d want to do before journeying anywhere unfamiliar to you, it’s essential to learn about Turkey’s history, culture, and environment before leaving. Traveling to a different nation without knowledge of their lifestyle there sets you up for a potentially disastrous time. And if you’re planning a trip like this, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible so that you can get the absolute most out of your travels.
Understanding a city or nation’s history allows you to understand how that specific place got to be where it is today. The history of a city has a large effect on the people that live there, so understanding history helps you better understand the people. Knowing the culture helps in several different ways such as knowing what they commonly eat and drink.
It’s important to know what language is spoken in the foreign country that you plan on visiting. Knowing what language is spoken there benefits you because you can come prepared. Maybe you’ve downloaded a language translation app and have it set to that language, or maybe you’ve gone to a local book store and picked up a dictionary that translates your language into theirs and vice versa.
Religion is another important aspect to have knowledge about before traveling to a different nation or city. Having a better understanding of all of these aspects makes it easier for you to fully respect the foreign land. All of this information and more can be learned from reading several books on the area you plan on visiting.
1. John Freely’s Istanbul
John Freely’s Istanbul was written by John Freely himself and is written on the history, cultures, and people who have impacted this city. Freely has been a devoted explorer of Istanbul for over 40 years! And because of his vast knowledge of the city, he has written more than 30 books about its topography and history.
He is a trusted and respected author of all things Istanbul, so reading work from him is suggested. Take this journey with Freely, and you’ll learn the history of Istanbul by visiting the mosques, climbing the hills, and simply walking the streets with him in this book.
2. Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World by Thomas F. Madden
A fabulous book about the wonderful city; Istanbul; covering its entire history in a perfect summary of 358 pages. Spending over 20 years of time to succeed this, you will hardly put down this book. Madden simply created four different historical chapters: Byzantion (667 BC-AD330), Byzantine Constantinople (330-1453), Ottoman Constantinople (1453-1923) and finally the modern Istanbul (1923-2016) supported by maps to give you a better idea.
3. Portrait of a Turkish Family by Irfan Orga
Portrait of a Turkish Family, written by Irfan Orga, is an autobiography of Orga and Orga’s family. The family, once a wealthy one, has lost everything due to World War I. But the story of the Orga family losing everything they have is not one that only they suffered.
This story of one family is a reflection of the country’s loss as a whole. The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the war left many traumatized. This was the mark of the fall of an empire but a rise of a nation.
4. Turkish Delights by Philippa Scott
Just as it is named so, this delightful book explains how Turkish art influenced the West in many aspects from the fall of Constantinople to the 20th century and became a great source for so many artistic and cultural ways such as painting, ceramics, textiles, interiors, fashion, architecture, garden design and many more where the results are stunning.
5. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
The majority of the audience best describes this 1998 written Turkish novel as a masterpiece of Orhan Pamuk who later in 2006 won the Nobel Prize in Literature for “My Name is Red”. It is a murder mystery of an Ottoman miniaturist (book illustrator) filled with a lot of beautiful details of the 15th century Ottoman Era of Istanbul.
6. Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango
An excellent biography (for some; it is the best) of the founder of Modern Turkey; Ataturk dating from the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey. Away from myths and any partisan sources; Mango, using numerous historical sources, summarizes the story of Ataturk’s life, not only about politics or military career but also his personal desires, passions, family, feelings, and many other aspects. A great read to learn about how modern Turkey was founded from its ashes, from scratch and how lucky was Turkey to have such a great leader.
7. Splendors of Istanbul: Houses and Palaces Along the Bosphorus by Chris Hellier
If you have not learned much about what you see along your Bosphorus cruise; this book is a coffee table masterpiece for you. It will enrich your knowledge about the beautiful waterside villas and mansions, what is inside, their stories, architecture and more. An excellent match as well for those enjoying an architectural tour of Istanbul or those who are interior designers.
8. Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire by Philip Mansel
A well-written history of Constantinople that concentrates on the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, examining a broad range of material and primary resources that reveal the influence of some wealthy families who supported the expansion of the empire.
9. Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer
The new edition (2008) shares all the aspects of past, present and future Turkey, caught between the glories of its Ottoman past and hope for the democratic future for the new generations while also sharing the truths about the dominance of its army, secular expectations and religious traditions.
10. Living in Istanbul by Kenize Mourad
The author shares the unique lifestyle and hidden splendors of Istanbul, inciting us to discover an infinite variety of charming private homes, magnificent palaces on the European and Asian shores of the Bosporus and delicate wooden yalis. These sumptuous dwellings -whether modern or traditional, intimate or spectacular -are imbued with the magic of the water and light, of copper and wood, and a sophisticated combination of Eastern and Western influences.
11. Turkish Reflections: A Biography of Place by Mary Lee Settle
Mary Lee Settle uses her novel, Turkish Reflections: A Biography of Place, to capture a side of Turkey that many have never had the opportunity to see. This biography takes its readers down a path of mystery, myth, and legend and of course, history. Settle takes her readers on the journey with her down trails once walked by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Ataturk, and more.
She allows the readers to experience Turkey in a new and usually unseen light.
12. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres
Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire; the story takes place at the fictional town of Eskibahce (meaning Garden of Eden) in southwest Turkey where Muslim Turks, Christians of Greek origin and Armenians live in harmony, forming friendships and inter-marrying. The lives of the inhabitants of Eskibahce are torn apart by World War I and Turkey’s subsequent war with Greece, the forced exile of Turkish Christians to Greece and of Muslim Greeks to Turkey.
13. Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk
Istanbul: Memories and the City was written by Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk is a Turkish novelist born in Istanbul and through this novel, he tells his story. The novel focuses on Pamuk’s family and his own journey of exploring the Ottoman Empire and himself. Although this literary journey can sometimes be slightly disturbing, Pamuk speaks on meditation and an elegy for this now-dead civilization.
It’s a powerful and moving tale that reflects on real-life struggles.
14. Gardens of Water by Alan Drew
Written by Alan Drew, Gardens of Water tells the story of a family of migrants living in Istanbul after the devastating earthquake of 1999. This book is a great read on issues surrounding religion, nationality, and ethnicity. Although written by Drew, the story is told from the eyes of his wife and children.
The decision to do so connects the reader to the story on a more intimate level.
Five Movies to Watch Before Visiting Turkey
Now that we’ve discussed 14 books about Turkey that you must read before embarking on your journey to Istanbul, it’s time to bring out the movie! Books are timeless and offer so much knowledge and detail that is sometimes hard to et solely from a movie. However, movies come with their own perks as well.
Watching a movie on Turkey’s culture, history, and such is a great way to see it in front of you before arriving there. Watching it on film shows you exactly what type of clothes are worn there, how the language sounds, what the environment looks like, and so much more.
1. Troy (2004)
As a classical Hollywood concept, the movie was majorly filmed at Malta while it will give you a perfect portrait of the story of Troy both with some facts and legendary myths.
2. The Water Diviner (2014)
Directed by Russell Crowe, the movie is one of the latest internationally known movies filmed in Turkey. Starring the main character, Russell Crowe is an Australian father who travels to Turkey to find his 3 missing sons after the Gallipoli Battle.
3. Winter Sleep (2014)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep is a Palm d’Or winner that was inspired by the local lifestyle and giving its audience the perfect eye pleasure of the beautiful snowy landscape of Cappadocia. Haluk Bilginer starring the main character Mr. Aydin as a former actor, running this small boutique hotel by Uchisar Valley and having troubles with his family and newly divorced sister.
4. Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005)
This film was released in 2005 and is a musical documentary that paints a unique portrait of Istanbul. Fatih Akin brings his viewers on this musical journey through Turkey with tons of Turkish music. In this film, you’ll appreciate the reflection of European and Asian influence on one city.
5. Istanbul Tales (2005)
This Turkish drama-anthology film plots the modern-day Istanbul with 5 fairytales of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Pied Piper.
Book That Flight and Get Ready to Travel!
If you’ve made the time to read some of these books about Turkey, then it’s time to book that flight and prepare yourself for a new journey! Always know what to expect before traveling to a new place. This way, you can have full respect for the city, nation, and people who inhabit it.
And while you’re there, you’ll want to check out these 10 amazing lakes in Turkey and 25 Turkish Villages that are off the beaten path! Contact us today to set up a private guided Turkey tour to ensure you don’t miss a thing.