Foreigners unable to read Turkish should not feel limited when it comes to browsing through Istanbul’s many miles of store bookshelves. There’s so much Anglophone reading material out there, you are really spoilt for choice if you know where to look. Luckily, we do.
But don’t feel restricted by what we suggest - we urge you to go and browse whenever you see a sign saying kitabevi (book shop) or kitapçısı (book seller), because in Istanbul you never know what you are going to find.
Robinson Crusoe – a bookstore with literature and coffee table books that take a month of Sunday afternoons to explore
This is a Narnia-like attic to get lost in above the gallery floors of SALT Beyoğlu. Robinson Crusoe also appears shoebox-sized in the SALT Galata on Bankalar Street below Galata Tower. Robinson Crusoe is undoubtedly one of the best English-language bookstores in Istanbul, with beautiful books to get excited about. The stock is as finely curated as the exhibitions in the SALT galleries. Nearly every title in the store (in sections spanning psychology to film to history) is enticing enough to bring home. The staff is knowledgeable and speaks English, but as with most great bookstores, their titles speak for themselves. İstiklal Caddesi No. 136, Beyoğlu; T: (0212) 245 98 20
Homer Kitabevi – history, politics and journalism on the Middle East
Yeni Çarşı Caddesi, which runs down the side of Galatasary High School towards the antique shops of Çukurcuma and art galleries of Tophane, is a great place to find all manner of bookshops – not least ArkeoPera, whose beautifully decorated store stocks English and Turkish titles with a focus on art, archeology, and design. But the shop we really want to talk to you about is Homer Kitabevi. Open since 1995, this establishment is the city’s best resource for books on Middle Eastern studies, history, and politics. The owners import their titles from the US and UK directly, which gives them control over both quality and cost. You can trust the titles to be captivating and topical. Yeni Çarşı Caddesi No.12/A, Galatasary; T: (0212) 249 59 02
Gon – comic book paradise, that also delivers subscriptions of the latest American comics
Gon is a tiny dinosaur, also hidden away on Yeni Çarşı Caddesi. It is a comic bookstore that has survived the extinction of its species. Gon is an extension of the Robinson Crusoe bookstore, opened because of demand for illustrated narrative, action-figures, sci-fi wonderlands, wild, wandering badasses and sassy characters. So, as it turns out, comic book nerds aren’t extinct, even if the shops that serve their needs largely are. Gon is only provider of the monthly American comic and the store has more than 160 subscribers who come in to get the latest of their favorites upon release. This is the place for Manga, Star Wars reference books, art books, independent graphic novels and beyond. Yeni Çarşı Caddesi No.34/A, Galatasaray; T: (0212) 245 98 20
Assouline - internationally renowned booksellers of quality, picture-rich coffee-table books
On the matter of coffee table books, no store in the city comes close to matching the Istanbul branch of French publishing house Assouline in Bebek. Having redefined the coffee table book, Assouline offers its customers intimate experiences of art, nature, and culture, and their selection proves that books are more than a substitute for real experience. Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No.25/A, Bebek; T: (0212) 287 55 34
Pür İstanbul – Art & design coffee-table books, magazines, newspapers and Asterix & Obelix adventures
Their books will soon appear on the actual coffee tables and dining tables of home interior concept store, Pür İstanbul, in Asmalımescit at the Tünel end of İstiklal Street. Pür has a growing range of brilliant art books, particularly those published by Taschen, as well as fashion and design. As a bonus, if you are a fan of Asterix & Obelix, you can find a huge selection in a number of languages, including English and Turkish of course. You can always expect to find the latest Turkish, American, English internationally-renowned magazines, as well as a few Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese magazines, on display and customers are more than welcome to pull up a chair and read, with complementary tea and biscuits. Jurnal Sokak No.2, Asmalımescit; T: (0212) 243 52 67
Minoa Bookstore & Cafe – curl up with a coffee at this independent bookstore
A sanctuary for bookworms in Beşiktaş, Minoa feels more like a well-stocked library than a bookshop. Shelves start at the ceiling and stretch all the way down, and cover every wall. They even have one of those funky ladders on wheels. Downstairs there is a cellar of books, where Minoa keeps the books cool presumably? If you can tear yourself away from the lair, why not sit at and have some food? But you have to be prepared to buy the books if you want to read them at your dining table. Minoa also sells music and stationery – this is truly a place where introverts can rub shoulders with one another (if they can bear it). Süleyman Seba Caddesi, Park Apartmanı No.52/A, Akaretler; T: (0212) 2274545
Envai – a long-established bookshop with a diverse selection, and lots of great ideas for gifts
Envai (formerly Türkü) has been in its current location for 43 years, making it one of the oldest shops in Bebek. Recently revamped, it has simply been restored to its former beauty rather than suffered a cosmetic face-lift. Envai is an outpost against the incoming tide of mega book chains and cut-price ebooks. If you want to browse titles that have been picked with care and attention in beautiful surroundings, look no further than Envai. The wonderful range of coffeetable books have been carefully selected. There are also novels, reference books, art books, and children's books spanning the languages of English, Turkish, and German. For those who prefer writing their own words, Envai also stocks nostalgic notebooks from Kağıthane, replicas of designs from the old days of Turkish schooling. As well as being a bookshop, Envai also displays calligraphy, jewelry, and ceramics for sale, so the design is somewhere between a classic library and a forward-looking gallery.Cevdetpaşa Caddesi No. 57B, Bebek; T: (0212) 358 00 47
Pandora Bookstores – everything and anything; new titles plus English translations of Turkish literature
Making your way down İstiklal Caddesi from Taksim Square, you will come across the Beyoğlu branch of Pandora Bookstores, whose English and Turkish stores straddle Büyükparmakkapı Sokak just to the left of the main drag. Pandora’s English stock is all-encompassing and non-discriminating, with shelves of ‘pop-lit’ resting side by side with literary criticism. They have a great selection of Turkish literature in English, and equally impressive selection of Turkish cookbooks and books on Turkish history and politics. Büyükparmakkapı Sokak No. 3 &8, Beyoğlu; T: (0212) 243 35 03
Greenhouse Books - wide fiction selection for adults and children
Last, but certainly not least, Greenhouse Books has one of the best selections in the city of English-language books. Importing over a thousand titles a month from the United Kingdom, its more than worth your while to make the trip to Kozyatağı.Founded in 1996 by an American expat, Greenhouse has since blossomed into a community center for readers. , and they can count book clubs, Turkish lessons, and initiatives to get children reading among their outreach programs. A trip to Greenhouse is a great way to initiate yourself into the world of books in Istanbul, although it may be an hour or two before you leave. Hilmi Paşa Caddesi No.21/B, Kadıköy; T: (0216) 449 30 34
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