The most recommended books about Istanbul

Who picked these books? Meet our 54 experts.

54 authors created a book list connected to Istanbul, and here are their favorite Istanbul books.
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Book cover of A Strangeness in My Mind

David Allen Author Of Pool of Echoes

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Teacher Entrepreneur Prognosticator Voiceover artist Hiker

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

David Allen Why did David love this book?

My favorite books are ones that make me feel like I’ve lived a whole other life. A Strangeness in my Mind does all that and more.

It transports me to another country, into another person’s life whose experience is so distant from my own yet still feels familiar. I got to know the city the main character lives in, its history, and what those around him really think but would never tell him.

It uses a mockumentary-style narrative but doesn’t lean too hard into it.

By Orhan Pamuk, Ekin Oklap (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Strangeness in My Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A mesmerizing love story with a cast of beguiling characters, from the Nobel prizewinning author Orhan Pamuk

** PRE-ORDER NIGHTS OF PLAGUE, THE NEW NOVEL FROM ORHAN PAMUK **

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

'A magnificent novel.' Wall Street Journal
'Powerful and moving.' TLS 'Books of the Year'
'Prepare to fall in love' Mail on Sunday
'As head-exploding as War and Peace, and more comforting' Elif Batuman

As a child, Mevlut always felt like he was missing out. When he moves to Istanbul - 'the centre of the world' - he is immediately enthralled. He wanders through its…


Book cover of Three Daughters of Eve

Iulia Dobre-Trifan Author Of Forward

From my list on relationships that define us across time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up overcoming odds and choosing the road less traveled by, which I walked many times, on my own, and sometimes, accompanied by a few others. Having developed a successful career, working with people, as a coach, trainer, entrepreneur, I am fascinated by the multifaceted power relationships exert on us, ranging from keeping us locked into toxicity and hopelessness, up to healing and transforming us into bright, joyful people. I believe our relationships define us, when optimally fueled by the quintessential element of time. I’m writing about this wonderful effect of relationships, both through non-fiction and fiction books. I also like reading about it.

Iulia's book list on relationships that define us across time

Iulia Dobre-Trifan Why did Iulia love this book?

The individual conflicts described in this book stem from the reality of relationships that are supposed to be in a certain way, but somehow get twisted into something different, rather forbidden, or at least with blurred boundaries. I love the interweaving of spirituality, cultural diversity, and the parallel timelines, past and present. The characters are complex and represent different value systems. Swinging between their own personal struggles, trying to find suitable answers to the big questions of life, they get caught in a web of events that lead to surprising consequences. 

By Elif Shafak,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*As mentioned on BBC's Desert Island Discs*

'A fascinating exploration of faith and friendship, rich and poor, and the devastating clash of tradition and modernity' Independent

Set across Istanbul and Oxford, from the 1980s to the present day, Three Daughters of Eve is a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and an unexpected betrayal.

Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife and mother, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground - an…


Book cover of The Scribe

Kay Camden Author Of Unquiet

From my list on a perfect blend of fantasy/adventure/romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ll admit I’m a terribly picky reader. My specific taste doesn’t seem to fit in one genre and is sometimes hard to nail down—literary prose with genre tropes, softly-integrated worldbuilding, adventure that leaves room for reflection, and a love story subplot that’s more mental than physical. I love anti-heroes and angst and stories that get a bit dark—but not too dark. When I find it, I’m hooked and obsessed, and I feel like I’m twelve years old again, reading late into the night with a flashlight under the covers. That exprience is what I’m always hunting for, and what I attempt to recreate in my own writing. 

Kay's book list on a perfect blend of fantasy/adventure/romance

Kay Camden Why did Kay love this book?

I love books that start in the world we know and gently transport the reader into the supernatural. The magic in The Scribe is ancient and the war is underground, but everything feels so natural and real. And how the hero and heroine interact—the reluctance, the tension, the life-or-death alliance. This isn’t instalove, it’s the inescapable love that connects them soul to soul. And when it’s not just the hero who’s haunted but also the heroine, there’s an added dimension to the story that feeds what I crave. The dialogue feels true to life, and the characters come alive on the page. The blend of these elements—fantasy, adventure, and romance—is perfect here, and how they play off one another is like magic.  

By Elizabeth Hunter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Sexy, well-written, and suspenseful." Hidden at the crossroads of the world, an ancient race battles to protect humanity, even as it dies from within.

To the outside world, Ava Matheson is a successful travel photographer from a privileged background. But Ava's spent a lifetime battling voices in her mind she can't understand, and her fractured family has convinced her she'll never belong.

Malachi is an Irin scribe, descended from an angelic race and sworn by blood and magic to defend humanity from the Grigori, the sons of fallen angels who could ravage the world. A chance meeting in Istanbul will…


Book cover of Cloud Cuckoo Land

Anthea T. Piscarik Author Of The Years In Between

From my list on historical fiction about overcoming loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

My favorite genre, historical fiction, inserts characters into real-life events. As a former news reporter, I enjoyed doing research when communicating factual information to readers. I love learning about different time periods and coming away with a fresh perspective on times gone by. History is subjective and always revised and revisited, but factual dates and occurrences remain the same. All the stories I chose to review reveal how fictionalized characters, in real events, deal with coming out on the other side of loss or pain with a stronger spirit. None of us escape loss. It’s inevitable. But there’s healing over time and trust in a God that loves us beyond expectations.

Anthea's book list on historical fiction about overcoming loss

Anthea T. Piscarik Why did Anthea love this book?

I challenged myself by listening to Cloud Cuckoo Land and pondered keeping up with extremely diverse plots and story threads. And yet, I discovered a thrill ride that traversed the past, present, and future! I employed the five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste—with illustrative descriptions and vivid, vulnerable characters that kept my imagination on full tilt.

I learned that I don’t have to love the characters when I’m empathetic and understanding of their weaknesses, defects, and personal history of suffering and loss. I didn’t miss a beat with all the twists and turns, and a tapestry emerged from divergent storylines. Also, I love it when an author innovates word usage, especially verbs! This book is a descriptive writing master class in a book!

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Cloud Cuckoo Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the New York Times bestseller list for over 20 weeks * A New York Times Notable Book * A National Book Award Finalist * Named a Best Book of the Year by Fresh Air, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and many more

“If you’re looking for a superb novel, look no further.” —The Washington Post

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” (The New York Times…


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

Andrew Sparke Author Of Abuse Cocaine & Soft Furnishings

From my list on making you love Istanbul.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Andrew's book list on making you love Istanbul

Andrew Sparke Why did Andrew love 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.

By Hilary Sumner-Boyd, John Freely,

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…


Book cover of The Walking

Helen Benedict Author Of The Good Deed

From my list on honest novels about being a refugee.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a novelist and journalist who has been writing about war and refugees for nearly two decades. In 2018, I went to the Greek island of Samos, which held one of the most inhumane refugee camps in Europe, to talk to people there about their lives and hopes. Out of this, I wrote several articles and later two books, including The Good Deed. My hope is to counteract the demonization of refugees, so rife in the world today, by bringing out all that we humans have in common, such as our need for shelter, food, family, safety, and love. 

Helen's book list on honest novels about being a refugee

Helen Benedict Why did Helen love this book?

I read this book a few years ago and have never forgotten it, it affected me so profoundly.

It tells the story of two Kurdish brothers in a mountain village in Iran who are forced to flee persecution and slaughter, one of whom ends up in California. Khadivi, Iranian herself, tells this with such haunting beauty and honesty that it still gives me chills to remember it.

It's part of a trilogy, and I've read all three, but this is my favorite volume.

By Laleh Khadivi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two brothers from a small Iranian mountain village-Saladin, who has always dreamed of leaving, and Ali, who has never given it a thought-are forced to flee for their lives in the aftermath of a political killing. The journey is beset by trouble from the start, but over the treacherous mountains they go, on foot to Istanbul and onward by freighter to the Azores.There, after a painful parting, Saladin alone continues on the final leg, on a cargo plane all the way to Los Angeles. He will have a new life in California, but will never be whole again without his…


Book cover of Murder on the Orient Express

Kitty Murphy Author Of Death in Heels

From my list on murder mysteries to brighten your day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I adore crime fiction, especially mysteries. They make sense. In the real world, crime rarely has the resolution of fiction, and almost never has Belgian detectives with very neat moustaches, or old ladies solving a who-dunnit… I grew up reading these books, mentally inhaling everything from Christie to Rankin to McDermid, and now I spend my days writing brutal but quite silly murders solved by a woman who would really rather wear an old grey fleece and jeans than a sparkly dress, and her friends, the fictional TRASH drag family. Murder mysteries are fun – perfect escapism. In a world so messed up as ours is right now, don’t we need to escape into fiction?

Kitty's book list on murder mysteries to brighten your day

Kitty Murphy Why did Kitty love this book?

I hate this book for all the reasons I love it: because it’s perfect.

It’s a perfect crime novel and a perfect mystery, with perfectly awful characters, set in a perfectly fabulous situation, and as a mystery writer I know I will never ever top Christie’s brilliance but oh my, any chance I have, I fall into this story.

Romance. Deception. Murder. Shiny things.

Genius.

Forget the movie, pick up the real thing. Poirot at his best.

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Murder on the Orient Express as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MOST WIDELY READ MYSTERY OF ALL TIME—NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY KENNETH BRANAGH AND PRODUCED BY RIDLEY SCOTT!

“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s…


Book cover of Beauty and Light: Mystical Discourses by a Contempoary Female Sufi Master

Omid Safi Author Of Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition

From my list on Rumi’s path of radical love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Rumi when I was 15. My parents introduced me to him, and lines of his poetry show up in daily conversation with them. Rumi had insights about life put much more eloquently than I could have expressed myself. I have devoted myself to studying this path of Radical Love for over 35 years now, and have the great joy to share these teachings with people in both academic and communal settings. I lead spiritually oriented tours to Turkey and Morocco through Illuminated Tours. I also teach online courses on Rumi and spirituality through Illuminated Courses and courses on Islam and Islamic spirituality at Duke University.

Omid's book list on Rumi’s path of radical love

Omid Safi Why did Omid love this book?

Cemalnur Sargut, whose own first name literally means Beauty-Light, thus the title of this volume, is a reminder that this Path of Love is a living tradition. She is a living Sufi female teacher in Istanbul, who offers brilliant insights into the Qur’an, Rumi, and Ibn ‘Arabi with effortless grace. To listen to Cemalnur or read her book is a reminder of the gates to heaven are still open.   

By Cemalnur Sargut, Tehseen Thaver (editor), Cangüzel Zülfikar (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the first memories I have from sitting with Cemalnur is from a magical night in Istanbul, where we were treated to a night of her sohbet, mystical discourse. Hour after hour went by, and Cemalnur was sharing stories, anecdotes, Sufi aphorisms, commentary on the Qur’an, and more. It all seemed so… effortless. These were not her stories. They were pouring through her. It was as if she had simply emptied herself of her own ego, and she was a channel of grace to the magical Beyond.

There’s something about experiencing a sohbet with her that is a reminder…


Book cover of Turkish Awakening: A Personal Discovery of Modern Turkey

Lisa Morrow Author Of Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries

From my list on the heart & soul of Turkey and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Sydney, Australia born sociologist and writer and back in 1990 I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. After three months in the country I was hooked. I now live in Istanbul and write about the people, culture, and history. Using my less than perfect Turkish language skills I uncover the everyday extraordinary of life in modern Istanbul and throughout the country, even though it means I’ve accidentally asked a random stranger to give me a hug and left a butcher convinced I think Turkish sheep are born with their heads on upside down.

Lisa's book list on the heart & soul of Turkey and its people

Lisa Morrow Why did Lisa love this book?

Turkish Awakening is the result of Alev Scott’s desire to discover the land of her mother’s birth and explore contemporary Turkish life and politics. Scott combines personal insights with an objective gaze to focus on a confusing and often contradictory culture, to try to unravel the complex relationships between modernity and religion unfolding in Turkey today. She chats with taxi drivers, examines how sex work and transgender inhabitants coexist, sometimes uneasily, next door to conservative Muslims recently relocated from the country, and explores the impact of popular soap operas featuring the newly rich on the aspirations of ordinary Turks and international tourism. The rise of the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP – Party for Justice and Progress) is covered as well as Turkey’s changing relationship with the EU. The book ends with Scott’s observations about the protests that sprang to life in Gezi Park in Istanbul and then spread…

By Alev Scott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Born in London to a Turkish mother and British father, Alev Scott moved to Istanbul to discover what it means to be Turkish in a country going through rapid political and social change, with an extraordinary past still linked to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and an ever more surprising present under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

From the European buzz of modern-day Constantinople to the Arabic-speaking towns of the south-east, Turkish Awakening investigates mass migration, urbanisation and economics in a country moving swiftly towards a new position on the world stage.

This is the story of discovering a complex country…


Book cover of Bosphorus: The Ultimate Guide

Lisa Morrow Author Of Inside Out In Istanbul

From my list on exploring and understanding Istanbul.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Sydney, Australia born sociologist and writer and back in 1990 I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. After three months in the country I was hooked. I now live in Istanbul and write about the people, culture, and history. Using my less than perfect Turkish language skills I uncover the everyday extraordinary of life in modern Istanbul even though it means I’ve accidentally asked a random stranger to give me a hug and left a butcher convinced I think Turkish sheep are born with their heads on upside down.

Lisa's book list on exploring and understanding Istanbul

Lisa Morrow Why did Lisa love this book?

Tonguç is probably Turkey’s most famous travel guide and Yale is the former writer of the Turkey Lonely Planet guide. Together they’ve written a beautifully put-together guide to the Bosphorus, the watery strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. Each entry includes the history and images of neighbourhoods along the waterway, but it’s the quirky anecdotes, nostalgia, and personal photographs, combined with exhaustive coverage of every park, palace, mansion, fountain, mosque, church, synagogue, and other examples of architectural majesty found in them that makes this guide invaluable.

By Saffet Emre Tonguç, Pat Yale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is among the most accurate and elaborative work about the Bosphorus. Alongside the exclusive, unseen photos from the most famous waterside mansions, it provides up-to-date information about the Bosphorus from one side to another. Asian and European sides being the two main chapters of the book, it takes you on a step by step Bosphorus tour that covers not only the touristic spots, but also the hidden treasures of the city only known by the locals. The 348 page guidebook written by Saffet Emre Tonguc and Pat Yale after months of preparation is an excellent work devoted to…