The best Ottoman Empire books 📚

Browse the best books on the Ottoman Empire as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

By Pankaj Mishra

Why this book?

This is a different kind of history. Rather than retelling the story of colonial conquest and incursion, Pankaj Mishra focuses instead on how colonised societies processed the political and cultural trauma of their encounter with imperialism. Asian thinkers are at the centre of this book, and their attempts to explain, and answer, the rise of the West from the perspectives of their own societies – India, China, or Japan – forms its central axis. This could be an obscure study, but Mishra’s style, sharp and incisive, ensures that it’s not.

From the list:

The best books about East Asia in the age of empire

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Book cover of An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi

An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi

By Robert Dankoff, Sooyong Kim, Evliya Çelebi

Why this book?

Evliya Çelebi's Book of Travels has remained a well-kept secret—until now. Evliya was a seventeenth-century Ottoman courtier who wandered the empire and beyond for over 40 years and recorded his adventures in what is considered to be the longest travel account in world literature. This well-chosen selection of excerpts from his entertaining and informative masterpiece brings glimpses of the many climes and cultures he explored to an English-speaking readership, while luring us irresistibly into his idiosyncratic world.

From the list:

The best books about the Ottoman Empire

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Book cover of Ironfire

Ironfire

By David Ball

Why this book?

The Great Siege of Malta – a nearly four-month struggle in 1565, should be essential for any military historian to understand. Sadly, its treatment in fiction has been ludicrously underserved.

Enter Ironfire. Mr. Ball’s work builds slowly, showing the reader how various elements of the Ottoman Army (the Janissaries, in particular) were acquired, trained, and readied for war. Likewise, a failing legacy of crusade, as well as a decline in support for religious military orders, plague Christian leadership in Malta. Ball’s ‘slow burn’ narrative ignites into the island’s famous siege by a massive and well-equipped Ottoman army, facing a…

From the list:

The best historical fiction novels depicting premodern battle

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

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City

By Hilary Sumner-Boyd, John Freely

Why this book?

This very personal guide to the former Byzantine and Ottoman capital by two ex-pat college professors was the cicerone that fuelled my generation's love affair with the city. Through its pages, we learned how to explore Istanbul's topography of sea and hills, and how to get lost in its back streets while remaining alert for something remarkable we would otherwise have passed by. Entertaining as much in the bath as out on the street, Strolling is still the most companionable and informative of guides, even though the city it describes has grown exponentially since the book's first publication in 1972.

From the list:

The best books about the Ottoman Empire

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Book cover of The Ottoman World: A Cultural History Reader, 1450-1700

The Ottoman World: A Cultural History Reader, 1450-1700

By Hakan T. Karateke, Helga Anetshofer

Why this book?

The workings of the state and the actions of state functionaries have long supplied the essential narrative informing our understanding of Ottoman history. This new volume by University of Chicago partner scholars is the first to give a platform to a wide spectrum of voices hailing from across the sultan's multilingual realm. Women and men, Muslims, Jews and Christians, prisoners and prostitutes, mystics and scholars, and a host of others, reach across the centuries to beguile us with their dreams and legends, anecdotes and jokes, biographies, and hagiographies. Although billed also as a textbook, as is customary these days in…

From the list:

The best books about the Ottoman Empire

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Book cover of Anyush

Anyush

By Martine Madden

Why this book?

Anyush’s eponymous heroine is a young Armenian girl whose life is turned upside-down by the genocide carried out by the Ottomans under the Young Turks during fighting in World War One. I was only vaguely aware of the genocide before picking up the novel and it combines a beautiful love story between Anyush and Turkish captain Jahan with a vivid account of the horrors people faced. Beautifully researched and written by Martine Madden, it’s a book that both enthralled and humbled me. 

From the list:

The best books about World War One that don’t have the same old story

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