The best books to make you love Istanbul

Andrew Sparke Author Of Abuse Cocaine & Soft Furnishings
By Andrew Sparke

Who am I?

Strangely as an English writer who loves skiing, the one place in the world in which I feel most at home is the old town of Istanbul. I’ve been there so many times and every visit inspires me to write. One trip provided the opening sentences of my first novel, another the middle chunk of my second novel, Copper Trance & Motorways, and yet another a suite of poems. Despite the historical sites it’s not a particularly beautiful city but it has a vitality like an electric charge and the hospitality of most Turks is amazing. When I’ve been struggling with writer’s block it's taking off to Istanbul that’s unstuck me.


I wrote...

Abuse Cocaine & Soft Furnishings

By Andrew Sparke,

Book cover of Abuse Cocaine & Soft Furnishings

What is my book about?

A romance of sorts about two damaged people and the three places that link them, Alanya, Lincoln, and Istanbul; as well as the loan sharks and drug dealers who threaten to divide them.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Turkey

By Suzanne Swan,

Book cover of Turkey

Why this book?

As publishers Dorling Kindersley have invented a great format, juxtaposing pictures and information in a way nobody else has ever done. The volume on Turkey is a browser’s paradise and if it doesn’t inspire you to want to visit the country and its largest city, then there’s something wrong with you. The introduction to Turkish life and the 80 or so pages on Istanbul are superb, cramming in so much knowledge but in a way that lets you skim and peruse it at your own pace, skipping about in the text, and lost in awe over the photographs of human structures and scenery. A Turkish traveler must-have!

Turkey

By Suzanne Swan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Turkey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The guide that shows you what others only tell you! Fancy de-stressing on paradise beaches or discovering grand palaces in the city? Make sure you don't miss a thing with this essential guide to Turkey. Meander through mesmerising landscapes and discover the hustle and bustle of mystical Istanbul using the unique cutaways and 3D models. Relevant tips on where to discover historical gems and up to date cultural facts will ensure that you stay one step ahead with where you want to go and what you want to see!
Voted Best Guide Book series by Guardian and Observer readers in…


Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City

By John Freely, Hilary Sumner-Boyd,

Book cover of Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City

Why this book?

For Istanbul the best walking guide ever. This book seamlessly conducts a visitor around the city’s sights, weaving stories from its history into street-by-street locations and managing above all else to avoid the sin of becoming boring. It makes you want to see every stretch of pavement and every building mentioned in the book. The only warning is it’s a thick paperback and you’ll want to take notes from it in advance rather than carrying it around with you.

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City

By John Freely, Hilary Sumner-Boyd,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Strolling Through Istanbul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic guide to Istanbul by Hilary Summer-Boyd and John Freely - the 'best travel guide to Istanbul' (The Times), 'a guide book that reads like a novel' (New York Times) - is here, for the first time since its original publication thirty-seven years ago, published in a completely revised and updated new edition. Taking the reader on foot through this captivating city - European City of Culture 2010 - the authors describe the historic monuments and sites of what was once Constantinople and the capital in turn of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, in the context of the great…

Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities

By Bettany Hughes,

Book cover of Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities

Why this book?

A big fat, fact-packed but readable history of the city as it changed from Constantinople into Byzantium and finally Istanbul. This is the book that places Viking immigrants alongside Romans, Goths, Moors, Ottomans, Venetians, and so many other races in a glorious cultural stew that makes the history of most other cities seem linear and dull by comparison. 

Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities

By Bettany Hughes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Istanbul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Istanbul has always been a place where stories and histories collide and crackle, where the idea is as potent as the historical fact. From the Qu'ran to Shakespeare, this city with three names - Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul - resonates as an idea and a place, and overspills its boundaries - real and imagined. Standing as the gateway between the East and West, it has served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. For much of its history it was known simply as The City, but, as Bettany Hughes reveals, Istanbul is not just a city, but…


Istanbul Eats: Exploring the Culinary Backstreets

By Ansel Mullins, Yigal Schleifer,

Book cover of Istanbul Eats: Exploring the Culinary Backstreets

Why this book?

I confess, I like food. I’m also keen to use cafes and restaurants where the emphasis is on cheap, tasty, and nutritious fare rather than forking out for establishments where a hefty bill is occasioned as much by expenditure on the decoration, linen, and silverware as the quality of the cooking. This is not a book about the westernised hotels and restaurants but about back street locantas serving lentil soup and stewed chicken with bottles of Turkish red wine or even just Coca-Cola and selling satisfying lunches for a pittance (thanks of course in part due to the impact of Turkish inflation on the exchange rate). This book is why even if you’re on a city break in Istanbul as a family you won’t need to rely on self-catering or standardised hotel dinners. There’s a wonderful English language bookshop near the Grand Bazaar that’ll sell you a copy of this book and arguably it should be every Istanbul visitor’s first purchase.

Istanbul Eats: Exploring the Culinary Backstreets

By Ansel Mullins, Yigal Schleifer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Istanbul Eats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Janissary Tree

By Jason Goodwin,

Book cover of The Janissary Tree

Why this book?

Just as reading the Cadfael novels of Ellis Peters primes so many people to want to see Shrewsbury so too do the murders and intrigues investigated by Jason Goodwin’s Ottoman administrator, the eunuch Yashim, provide the same incentive to walk around Istanbul. The old city encompassed by the Byzantine walls still has so many of the buildings which feature as the 1836 setting for the first of this series of unusual historical detective novels and Yashim’s creator is so obviously both a knowledgeable historian and a great storyteller. And you are going to fall in love with Yashim and his cronies – that’s a given!

The Janissary Tree

By Jason Goodwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Janissary Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Istanbul, the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Istanbul, the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey.

Istanbul Explore 27 books about Istanbul
The Ottoman Empire Explore 37 books about the Ottoman Empire
Turkey Explore 63 books about Turkey

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Bosphorus, Turkish Letters, and An Ottoman Traveller if you like this list.