There are a ton of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Turkey and the Middle East. While most of them are useful in learning about the region’s history and culture, few hold my interest for more than a couple pages. That’s not the case for the following three books, which I am reading or have skimmed heavily (and plan to read when I get around to it).
Birds Without Wings. This novel, by the author of Corelli’s Mandolin, is set in Turkey during the population exchange. It gives a good overview of Greek/Turkish relations and also has a moving personal story.
The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet. Part of the dance that is a visit to Turkey and the Middle East is the browsing (and possibly purchasing) of carpets. You sit, drink tea, and let carpet sellers unfurl dozens of colorful rugs in front of you. This book, which focuses more on Iran, the home of the Persian carpet, is a good primer on the history and production of carpets in general. I’ve yet to find a similar book that is specific to Turkey. Another book I like in this category is Tribal and Village Rugs: The Definitive Guide to Design, Pattern & Motif.
From the Holy Mountain. William Dalrymple has penned many excellent historical/travel books. This one’s subtitle is “A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium,” and the author travels through parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt in search of the roots of Christianity. I am also keen to point out Mr. Dalrymple’s latest nonfiction work, The Last Mughal, which looks at the events that led up to the downfall of India’s last emperor, Bahadur Shah II. In case you didn’t know, the Mughals of India had roots in Turkey and the Middle East. So, in many ways, I feel like I’m following in Dalrymple’s footsteps…but perhaps in reverse.
As I come across more good reads about Turkey, I will add them to my Amazon store. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these suggestions.