So many books exist on Turkish culture that it’s difficult to know where to start.
Wait—no it isn’t!
The place to start is with Barrie Kerper’s Istanbul: The Collected Traveler.
Ms Kerper, a longtime lover of Istanbul and Turkish culture, has collected nearly 600 pages of essays, stories, news items, poems, recipes and interviews on Turkey in general and Istanbul in particular.
The range of topics is almost bewildering, from an essay on Ottoman Art by the esteemed museum director Ms Esin Atıl through debates on the origins of Turkish cuisine to John Freely‘s classic portrait of “The Passage of Flowers” (Istanbul’s Çiçek Pasajı). There’s even an interview with yours truly.
Ms Kerper’s vision of, and acquaintance with, Turkish culture is broad and eclectic: history, architecture, art, cuisine, society, geography, literature, personalities—you name it, and she has probably included a piece of writing that touches upon it.
If 600 pages is not enough for you, fret not. Ms Kerper details Recommended Reading that goes beyond each of the section headings in her book.
The tourist doing a quick 10-day check-off of Turkey’s top sights might not care about culture, but if you have an interest in Turkey beyond the quick tour, Istanbul: The Collected Traveler is a great way to begin your education about all things Turkish.
Istanbul: The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Companion Guide, edited by Barrie Kerper
New York: Vintage Departures, a division of Random House, Inc., 2009. ISBN 978-0-307-39059-2 596 pages, photographs and illustrations. US$19. Click here to get it.