Novels about Turkey: 7 Books Set in Turkey that Give a peek into Culture

Are you looking to read a couple of novels about Turkey before you Visit? I got you covered

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I have always loved to read and appreciated a book’s capacity to transport you to another time and place. I remember getting lost in books as a child.

These novels about Turkey will do just that!

Each book is by a different author, has its own style, and will hold a different view of Turkey and aspects of life here.

While they aren’t real stories, I think fiction has a way of explaining the culture and history in a way that a nonfiction book never could.

I have really enjoyed reading many of these while some are still on my reading list. There is one that I just couldn’t get into but so many love it, so I included it.

They have been especially fun to read and then live here. It has made the fiction and cultural elements come alive in a whole new way.

As you prepare for your trip to Turkey, grab one of these books and learn something about the culture before you even step foot in Turkey.

I hope you will enjoy each of these books on Turkey for what they are as you venture into a new world and discover something new.

7 Novels about Turkey

While many of these books are written by Turkish writers some of them are not but all of them give a glimpse into history and culture all the same.

Thankfully all of them have been translated into English so you can enjoy them.

Some have won a Nobel Prize in Literature and others are a bit more obscure.

Some of these books are quite famous while others are debut novels.

Regardless of how new or old the novel is, it is clear that Turkish literature has made its mark in the international literature scene.

As you step into Turkish society through the eyes of the author I hope you enjoy them all!

1. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières

This book holds a special place in my heart. I bought this book before I knew specifically that the desire of my heart to be in Asia actually meant Turkey.

I bought this book 3 years before I had even considered Turkey.

When I saw it I was intoxicated and knew I had to buy it. I have had this experience only one other time and only since moving to Turkey.

When I first tried to read it, I found it dry, but as I have experienced, it spoke more to the book being out of season for me rather than it not being a good book.

But maybe 6 months after I decided to move to Turkey, I picked this book up again and realized what it was…a historical novel about Turkey as it separated from the Ottoman Empire and became a sovereign nation.

It was through this book I first learned a little about modern Turkey and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the hero of the Turks.

It is a beautiful story told from multiple perspectives about the Turks and Greeks who once lived together in a small village called Eskibahçe.

Although it is fiction is based on Kayakoy, a now abandoned Greek village near Fethiye on the Anatolia side of Turkey.

This book is a beautiful picture of people living among those who are different than themselves and thriving in those relationships.

There is a strong tension between religion and nationalism especially when it is impacted by love.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! Buy “Birds Without Wings” on Amazon – it would even make a great gift!

a pin for 7 great novels about Turkey with "Birds without wings" as the book in the center

2. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin

One of my favorite things about fiction is the ability to paint a picture.

Sometimes it is easier to understand a picture first and then understand the real.

In her book, Ayşe Kulin paints a beautiful picture of love that transcends politics, war, and religion through the story of two families.

Selva couldn’t care less about any of her potential suitors as she could only see a Jewish boy, the son of a court physician.

As intermarriage was a big deal back then. When they decided to move away so they could start a new life, little did they know the coming war would greatly impact them as well as their families.

Buy “Last Train to Istanbul” on Amazon

3. Gardens of Water by Alan Drew

This debut novel by Alan Drew is incredibly well done.

There are many novels about Turkey that deal with forbidden love but this one hits home as it is about a forbidden love between an American boy and a Kurdish girl.

Dylan, the son of an expat teacher, is seen as a temptation that Irem’s father hopes to shelter her from but when a massive earthquake shakes their world in the middle of the night, forbidden love is no longer the biggest obstacle.

The book highlights the cultural tensions of personal freedom versus honoring cultural tradition.

What will come of the relationship when the Kurdish family’s survival is dependent on their American neighbors?

Buy “Gardens of Water” on Amazon

4. Midnight at the Pera Palace by Charles King

Recently Netflix released a series about the Pera Palace so when I saw this book, I was intrigued.

In this book, Charles King weaves historical fiction with such depth.

The Pera Palace, Istanbul’s most luxurious hotel, is the backdrop for an incredible story.

The city of Istanbul was quite a melting pot. Many ethnicities and religions lived together and coexisted. They welcomed all.

But during the Second World War, there is much more at play. During this critical time period, Istanbul finds its way into the modern world.

Buy “Midnight at the Pera Palace” on Amazon

5. Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez

In Istanbul Istanbul, Burhan Sönmez develops themes of compassion, creation, and the importance of imagination.

Set in a prison, four prisoners await their judgments.

Between the student, the doctor, the barber, and Uncle Küheylan, they begin to share stories of life.

They laugh together and find sweet comfort in the stories shared.

As the story unfolds a bigger picture about Istanbul itself becomes clearer.

Regardless of whether it is life above or in the ancient streets below Istanbul, both hope and suffering abound.

Buy “Istanbul Istanbul” on Amazon

6. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk’s “My Name is Red”, is a masterpiece addressing the big ideas and tensions between religion, love, power, and art.

Orhan is a famous Turkish author who has written many international best sellers including Snow, The White Castle, The Black Book, and Istanbul.

This book is set in 16th-century Istanbul with all of its splendor and religious chicanery.

The Sultan wants to create a book that will sing the praises of his great realm so he forms a special group.

The problem is much of art is quite offensive to the religious minds and so their full goals must be kept secret.

Buy “My Name is Red” on Amazon

7. The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is another local author who has penned many international best-sellers.

In Shafak’s book, we find a story revolving around 6 strong women set between the United States and Turkey.

We see Asya, a girl who loves Western music and culture, the four sisters of the Kazanci family, one of whom is Asya’s mother, and Armanoush, the wife of Asya’s mother’s brother who is living in America.

When Armanoush comes to Turkey from America to find herself, she and Asya connect. Soon long-kept secrets are revealed.

This book’s ending shocked me. It was brutal but so in line with how Turks live and relate. I loved it because of this!

Buy “The Bastard of Istanbul” on Amazon

I love a good fiction book. The ability to be transported anywhere and anytime to any world is so magical!

It’s also so interesting to see what cultures value and how it is revealed through a story.

You can also check out my post on Turkish TV Series. They are great for learning some of the languages but also really helpful in learning some of the cultures!

If you want to learn a bit of Turkish before you come, you can check out Turkish for tourists.

Have you read any good books about Turkey?

read more:

Turkey vacation basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAaway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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