Regardless of the kind of books you like the most, the indisputable truth is that the world would not be the same without books. Books have been educating and inspiring us for thousands of years, so it should go without saying that World Book Day is a more than a well-deserved holiday.

The History of World Book Day

Books did not always look the way they do today, with their glossy covers and creamy pages. When writing systems were invented in ancient civilizations thousands of years ago, clay tablets were used. Later, humanity moved on to using papyrus. In the 3rd century, the Chinese were the first to make something that resembled today’s books in that they consisted of numerous thick, bamboo pages sewn together. Then, in the mid-15th century, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press brought books into the industrial age, making them readily available to anyone who wanted to read them. It is thanks to that ingenious invention that we are all able to enjoy a good book in the comfort of our own homes today.

World Book Day was created on April 23rd, 1995, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The connection between that date and books, however, was made in Spain in 1923, as it is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, prominent Spanish Chronicler. Source: Days of the Year

How to Celebrate World Book Day

The absolute best way to celebrate this day would be to do some reading. Do you have a book you just can’t get around to finishing? Today’s the time to curl up on the couch or a blanket outside with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy every last page.

Here’s our suggested reading list of books about Turkey for your enjoyment.

Birds Without Wings

by Louis de Bernières

One of the best-known books about Turkey is Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières. Inspired by a visit to Kayaköy, Louis wrote his “enchanting masterpiece” and has visited and brought the characters to life by reading excerpts from the book in Kayaköy.

World Book Day: compelling books about Turkey
Louis de Bernières reading an excerpt from Birds Without Wings – Kayaköy 2nd May 2012 © Lyn Ward
World Book Day: compelling books about Turkey
Louis de Bernières reading an excerpt from Birds Without Wings – Kayaköy 2nd May 2012 © Lyn Ward

World Book Day: compelling books about Turkey

Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia – a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.

When war is declared and the outside world intrudes, the twin scourges of religion and nationalism lead to forced marches and massacres, and the peaceful fabric of life is destroyed. Birds Without Wings is a novel about the personal and political costs of war, and about love: between men and women; between friends; between those who are driven to be enemies; and between Philothei, a Christian girl of legendary beauty, and Ibrahim the Goatherd, who has courted her since infancy. Epic in sweep, intoxicating in its sensual detail, it is an enchanting masterpiece.

“A quite astonishing, and compulsively readable, tour de force. . . . De Bernières’s subtly differentiated characters attach themselves to us and won’t let go.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

Meander: East to West Along a Turkish River

By Jeremy Seal

World Book Day: compelling books about Turkey

The course of the Meander is so famously indirect that the river’s name has come to signify digression – an invitation Jeremy Seal wholeheartedly embraces while travelling the length of it in a one-man canoe.  At every twist and turn of his journey, from the Meander’s source in the uplands of Central Turkey to its mouth on the Aegean Sea, Seal illuminates his account with a wealth of cultural, historical and personal asides.

It is a journey that takes him from the stamping ground of such illustrious adventurers as Alexander the Great and the Crusader Kings to the great port city of Miletus, home of the earliest Western philosophers – but Seal also encounters a rich assortment of characters on the cusp of change.  Above all, this is the story of a river that first brought the cultures of East and West into contact – and conflict – with one another, its banks littered with the spoil of empires, the marks of war, and the detritus of recent industrialisation.

Epic, intimate and insightful, Meander is a brilliant evocation of a land between two worlds.

‘Meander is an excellent introduction to Turkish history for anyone planning a summer holiday.’ – Sara Wheeler, the Guardian

‘A highly enjoyable and fascinating account of a country caught between Europe and Asia’. –

The Forty Rules of Love

By Elif Şafak

World Book Day: compelling books about Turkey

Discover the forty rules of love

Ella Rubinstein has a husband, three teenage children, and a pleasant home. Everything that should make her confident and fulfilled. Yet there is an emptiness at the heart of Ellas’s life – an emptiness once filled by love.

So when Ella reads a manuscript about the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tebriz, and his forty rules of life and love, she is shocked out of herself. Turning her back on her family she embarks on a journey to meet the mysterious author of this work.

It is a quest infused with Sufi mysticism and verse, taking Ella and us into an exotic world where faith and love are heartbreakingly explored.

Enlightening, enthralling. An affecting paean to faith and love” – Metro

”Colourfully woven and beguilingly intelligent” – Daily Telegraph

Turkish Reflections: A Biography of a Place

by Mary Lee Settle
World Book Day: compelling books about Turkey

Mary Settle offers us an intimate portrait of a Turkey rarely seen-a land where the cutting of a tree is a crime, where goats are sacrificed to launch state-of-the-art ships, and where whole towns emerge at dusk to stroll in the streets. She finds ancient monasteries converted into discos, underground cities carved out of rock, and sleek jet-set yachts alongside camels piled high with copper pots. She follows in the footsteps of emperors and nomads, sultans and shepherds; explores the trails blazed by Alexander the Great, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, and Ataturk. “Turkish Reflections” is a cross-country odyssey into history, legend, mystery, and myth.

“Settle’s eye for perfect detail never fails. But, more, she does for Turkey what only the most accomplished travel writers do: shows why it is a place that must be visited, then makes it seem as if here readers have just come home from there” – Kirkus Reviews