Midnight at the PeraMidnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

By Charles King
W. W. Norton & Company, 2015

At midnight, December 31, 1925, citizens of the newly proclaimed Turkish Republic celebrated the New Year. For the first time ever, they had agreed to use a nationally unified calendar and clock. Yet in Istanbul―an ancient crossroads and Turkey’s largest city―people were looking toward an uncertain future. Never purely Turkish, Istanbul was home to generations of Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, as well as Muslims. It welcomed White Russian nobles ousted by the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik assassins on the trail of the exiled Leon Trotsky, German professors, British diplomats, and American entrepreneurs―a multicultural panoply of performers and poets, do-gooders and ne’er-do-wells. In beguiling prose and rich character portraits, Charles King brings to life a remarkable era when a storied city stumbled into the modern world and reshaped the meaning of cosmopolitanism.

Portrait of Turk FamilyPortrait of a Turkish Family

By Irfan Orga
Eland, 2011

Describes in chilling, yet affectionate, detail the disintegration of a wealthy Ottoman family, both financially and emotionally. His mother was a beauty, married at thirteen, as befitted a Turkish woman of her class. His grandmother was an eccentric autocrat, determined at all costs to maintain her traditional habits. But the war changed everything. Death and financial disaster reigned, the Sultan was overthrown, and Turkey became a republic. The family was forced to adapt to an unimaginably impoverished life. “”It is just as though someone had opened a door marked ‘Private’ and showed you what was inside….” Harold Nicolson

The Black SeaThe Black Sea: A History

By Charles King
Oxford, 2004

The lands surrounding the Black Sea share a colorful past. Though in recent decades they have experienced ethnic conflict, economic collapse, and interstate rivalry, their common heritage and common interests run deep. Now, as a region at the meeting point of the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Middle East, the Black Sea is more important than ever. In this lively and entertaining book, which is based on extensive research in multiple languages, Charles King investigates the myriad connections that have made the Black Sea more of a bridge than a boundary, linking religious communities, linguistic groups, empires, and later, nations and states.

Last Train toLast Train to Istanbul

By Ayse Kulin
Amazon Crossing, 2002

International bestseller by one of Turkey’s most beloved authors.

As the daughter of one of Turkey’s last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life. But when the Nazis invade France, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing—not war, not politics, not even religion—can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety. Last Train to Istanbul is an uplifting tale of love and adventure from Turkey’s beloved bestselling novelist Ayse Kulin.

A Useless ManA Useless Man: Selected Stories

By Sait Falk Abasiyanik
Archipelago, 2015

Sait Faik Abasiyanik was born in Adapazari in 1906 and died of cirrhosis in Istanbul in 1954. He wrote twelve books of short stories, two novels, and a book of poetry. His stories celebrate the natural world and trace the plight of iconic characters in society: ancient coffeehouse proprietors and priests, dream-addled fishermen adn poets of the Princes’ Isles, lovers and wandering minstrels of another time. Many stories are loosely autobiographical and deal with Sait Faik’s frustration with social convention, the relentless pace of westernization, and the slow but steady ethnic cleansing of his city. His fluid, limpid surfaces might seem to be in keeping with the restrictions that the architects of the new Republic placed on language and culture, but the truth lies in their dark, subversive undercurrents.

The Black BookThe Black Book

By Orhan Pamuk
Vintage, 2006

2006 Nobel Prize in Literature

Galip is a lawyer living in Istanbul. His wife, the detective novel–loving Ruya, has disappeared. Could she have left him for her ex-husband or Celâl, a popular newspaper columnist? But Celâl, too, seems to have vanished. As Galip investigates, he finds himself assuming the enviable Celâl’s identity, wearing his clothes, answering his phone calls, even
writing his columns. Galip pursues every conceivable clue, but the nature of the mystery keeps changing, and when he receives a death threat, he begins to fear the worst.

My Name is RedMy Name Is Red

By Orhan Pamuk
Vintage, 2001

At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers. The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.

The Rise of Turkey, the Twenty-First Century’s First Muslim Power

By Dr. Soner Cagaptay
Potomac Books Inc., February 2014

A guide to Turkey’s changes, both in their inspiring potential and in the grave challenges they pose. Structured as a travelogue, each chapter opens on a different Turkish city and captures a new theme of Turkey’s transformation. From the Kurdish issue to foreign policy, the book argues that Turkey needs to successfully balance its Muslim identity with its Western overlay in order to become a regional and global power.


The Young Ataturk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey

By Prof. George Gawrych
I.B.Tauris, 2013.

Gawrych examines Ataturk’s intellectual development from soldier to statesman and founder of the Republic. Ataturk studied war seriously. He also nurtured a cosmopolitan mind based on a personal philosophy revolving around the triad of mind, conscience, and sentiment. Among his many non-military influences were Turkish poets and Benjamin Franklin.


The Origins of the Crimean War (Origins of Modern Wars)

By Prof. David M. Goldfrank
Routledge, 1993.

If ever a war was prompted by a dispute that was resolved before a bullet was fired and then erupted into warfare due to international tensions, individual egos and domestic politics, it was the Crimean War. This was also the first war involving railroads, steamships, the telegraph, war correspondents, photographers, and rapid fire rifles with an accelerated rate of killing. The Ottoman Empire “beat” the Russians this time, but it continued to contract, while Russia, as well as the more genuine victors France and England, continued to expand and to modernize.

Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency

By Edward J. Erickson
Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.

Covering the period from 1878-1915, this is a military history of the Ottoman army and the counterinsurgency campaigns it waged in the last days of the Ottoman empire. Although Ottomans were among the most active practitioners of counterinsurgency campaigning in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, in the vast literature available on counterinsurgency in the early twenty-first century, there is very little scholarly analysis of how Ottomans reacted to insurgency and then went about counterinsurgency. This book presents the thesis that the Ottoman government developed an evolving, 35-year, empire-wide array of counterinsurgency practices that varied in scope and execution depending on the strategic importance of the affected provinces.

Death and Exile

By Justin McCarthy
The Darwin Press, Inc., 1995.

Death and Exile is the dramatic history of the deportation and death of millions of Muslims in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from areas that have remained centers of conflict — the Balkans, the Middle East, and what was the Soviet Union–and shows how these conflicts developed. Death and Exile tells the story from the standpoint of the Turks and other Muslims who suffered death and exile as a result of imperialism, nationalism, and ethnic conflict. This compelling story deepens our perspective on the history of the peoples of the Middle East and the Balkans and presents a framework for understanding modern developments in the region.

Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilization

By Lars Brownworth
Random House, 2010.

In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell — or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another 11 centuries. As Europe fell into the Dark Ages, Byzantium — still known as Rome by its citizens, neighbors and enemies — reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization, keeping both Christianity and classical thought alive. When literacy all but vanished in the West, Byzantium made primary education available to both sexes. Students debated the merits of Plato and Aristotle and commonly committed the entirety of Homer’s Iliad to memory.

Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Andrew Finkel
New York: Oxford University Press. 2012.

Finkel, one of the best-known competent observers of Turkey and Turkish affairs, has produced a charming, honest small  volume to acquaint new and old Turkey hands alike with the state of the nation today.  Offering enough history and depth of analysis to make sense of a wide range of topics (Turkey’s place in the world, its economy, social issues, religious questions, and ethnic minorities) Finkel deftly leads the reader into clear expositions of these critical issues for Turkey today.  As a familiar name in the highest circles of journalism due to his frequent contributions in the Economist, The New York Times and the Times of London, Finkel’s newest book is a welcome guide to understanding contemporary Turkey.

Notes On A Century: Reflections Of A Middle East Historian

By Bernard Lewis
New York: Viking Press. 2012.

Long considered the doyen of Middle East historians and scholar par excellence, in his 95th year Bernard Lewis has produced a charming picture of his life and career, an anecdotal autobiography written in his wonderful literary fashion. He leads the reader through early years in England, his struggle for an education and those who helped him achieve that. His talent for languages (English, French, Italian, German, Hebrew, Danish, Arabic, Turkish … the list goes on) has perhaps been forgotten in recent years as some colleagues have attempted to diminish the value of his work and ideas.  He was a ground-breaking historian, a meticulous researcher and seeker of details to clarify events and personages, whose influence stretched far beyond academic circles into the halls of national leaders. His recounting of his academic endeavors, his brushes with ethnic prejudices, his enormously wide range of friendships with political leaders and policy makers around the globe, and his intellectual clashes with the “politically correct” and “orientalist” followers of Edward Said are all treated with great wit, clarity, and intellectual honesty.

Istanbul Passage

By Joseph Kanon
New York: Atria Press.  2012.

Set in Istanbul immediately after World War II, this espionage thriller of an American businessman who is caught up in a web of intrigue, spies, and lies will delight and confound the reader.  The subtleties of the author’s mind, the swirling plots and counterplots, and the darker workings of the American Consulate in Istanbul in the post-war world compel the reader to keep turning the pages until the startling conclusion is reached. A fun weekend’s read.


Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution

By Christine M. Philliou
Berkeley: University of California Press. 2011.

A scholarly work, meticulously researched and richly detailed, this highly readable work will lead the reader to a new understanding of Ottoman court intricacies in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Professor Philliou, of Columbia University, highlights the place in society and the bureaucracy of the Phanariots, Greek Orthodox Christians who were officially excluded from imperial office but in actuality became the heads of the Balkan Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia) during the early years of the 19th century. Intimately bound up with the conduct of foreign affairs of the Sublime Porte, a number of Phanariot families of Istanbul were powerful influences at Court until the early stages of the Greek bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s.  Prof. Philliou breaks new ground telling the stories of these Phanariot families in a dense but fascinating work.

This book’s publication was supported by The Institute of Turkish Studies.

The Turkish Embassy Letters

By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
London: Virago Press. 2011.

This is the 13th reprinting of this edition of a classic volume of letters written by the wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople during her stay from 1716 – 1718. A well-educated and keen observer of life around her, Lady Mary’s letters have been “must” reading for generations of diplomats and others traveling or living in Turkey.



Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea

By Katharine Branning
New York: Bluedome Press. 2012.

A sweet book (at times almost TOO sweet), this is a series of hypothetical letters written by the author to Lady Mary, recounting this generation’s life in Turkey. Branning, a Midwestern American who worked for many years in Paris and now lives in New York,  is the Vice-President and librarian for the French Institute Alliance Francaise. She loves Turkey, has made an annual visit faithfully over 30 years, has learned Turkish, enjoys Turkish poetry and literature, and has studied Selcuk decorative arts.

In her “letters to Lady Montagu,” Branning discusses Turkish society, religion, art, women, sites, and travel, often referring to Lady Mary’s letters on similar subjects.  She writes with a clear, easy prose style, describing people, places, and events with enough detail to make her subjects authentic and not superfluous.  Her great affection for the Turkish people shines through on every page.

A Useless Man: Selected Stories, by Sait Faik Abasiyanik

Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution, by Christine M. Philliou

The Black Book, by Orhan Pamuk

The Black Sea, by Charles King

Death and Exile, by Justin McCarthy

Istanbul Passage, by Joseph Kanon

Last Train to Istanbul, by Ayse Kulin

Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilization, by Lars Brownworth

My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk

Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

Notes On A Century: Reflections Of A Middle East Historian, by Bernard Lewis

Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency, by Edward J. Erickson

Origins of the Crimean War (Origins of Modern Wars), by Prof. David M. Goldfrank

Portrait of a Turkish Family, by Irfan Orga

The Rise of Turkey, the Twenty-First Century’s First Muslim Power, by Dr. Soner Cagaptay

Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Andrew Finkel

The Turkish Embassy Letters, by Lady Mary Wortley Montgu

Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea, by Katharine Branning

The Young Ataturk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey, by Prof. George Gawrych