Exploring Independent Bookstores
Technology has allowed us to download books with the ease of one-click, but for bibliophiles, nothing can compare to the sensory experience of walking into a bookstore and the smell of paper, and the colours and images that invite you to explore other worlds.
Creating this haven is what Ayşen Boylu, the owner and Managing Director of the delightful Homer Kitabevi booksellers has been doing since 1995.
She opened the store with the primary purpose of bringing books on archaeology and Byzantine history to readers in Turkey and abroad. Over the years, she has slowly expanded its offerings. They also have several publications in the areas of archaeology, photography, mountaineering, and social sciences.
Their main location is tucked away on a side street off of Istiklal Street in Istanbul. It’s a cosy multi-story bookstore with a children’s section on the bottom floor, English and Turkish fiction on the next floor, and sociology, philosophy, history, art, architecture, photography, and cooking on the third floor. Their upstairs space is designated for exclusive meetings and has fantastic views of the city. The collection is well-curated and current, providing a resource to people who may otherwise have a hard time finding an extensive collection of English language materials in Turkey.
The bookstore hosts a popular series of lectures throughout the year, which are divided into three categories: 1. food and culture, 2. popular archaeology 3. Boğaziçi University lecturers.
Ayşen also has another location in Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul, and in Ankara. They also supply textbooks and other items for Sabancı University and some of the larger high schools in the Istanbul area. They regularly collaborate with local organisations to run bookstalls for Christmas, Easter, or Kermes events and welcome the opportunity to continue and help support people’s reading and research needs.
RECOMMENDED READING FROM AYŞEN BOYLU
"10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World" by Elif Shafak
'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away . . . '
Our brains stay active for 10 minutes after our heart stops beating. For Tequila Leila, each minute brings with it a new memory: growing up with her father and his two wives in a grand old house in a quiet Turkish town; watching the women gossip and wax their legs while the men went to mosque; sneaking cigarettes and western magazines on her way home from school; running away to Istanbul to escape an unwelcome marriage; falling in love with a student who seeks shelter from a riot in the brothel where she works. Most importantly, each memory reminds Leila of the five friends she met along the way—the friends who are now desperately trying to find her.
"Reckless" by Hasan Ali Toptaş
Thirty years after completing his military service Ziya flees the spiraling turmoil of one of Turkey's great sprawling cities to seek a serene existence in a village of which he has long heard dreamlike tales.
Having endured two years of grueling military life, taking brutal orders from a man hiding behind his rank, and then losing his wife and child in a terrorist attack, Ziya has never quite been able to return to the life he once had until one day he breaks free.
Arriving in the village, Ziya is greeted by his old friend from the army, Kenan, who has built and furnished a vineyard house for him. There he is welcomed by Kenan's family, but the village does not provide the total isolation Ziya yearns for and he is forced back through the tangled web of his memory to the time he and Kenan spent defending the treacherous Syrian/Turkish border in search of the reason why Kenan feels so extravagantly in his debt.
Hasan Ali Toptaş masterfully blurs the boundaries between dream and reality, truth and memory, past and present, to create a gripping and surprising tale that introduces a major writer to English-language readers for the first time.
"Dawn" by Selahattin Demirtaş
In this essential collection, Selahattin Demirtaş’s arresting stories capture the voices of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. A cleaning lady is caught up in a violent demonstration on her way to work. A five-year-old girl attempts to escape war-torn Syria with her mother by boat. A suicide bombing shatters a neighborhood in Aleppo. And in the powerful story, ‘Seher’, a young factory worker is robbed of her dreams in an unimaginable act of violence.
Written with Demirtaş’ signature wit, warmth, and humour, and alive with the rhythms of everyday speech, Dawn paints a remarkable portrait of life behind the headlines in Turkey and the Middle East — in all its hardship and adversity, freedom and hope.
"Shadowless" by Hasan Ali Toptaş
In another recommended book by Hasan Ali Toptaş, he exquisitely weaves an enigmatic, mystical tale of memory and identity, displacement and belonging.
In an Anatolian village forgotten by both God and the government, the muhtar has been elected leader for the sixteenth successive year. When he staggers to bed that night, drunk on rakı and his own well-deserved success, the village is prosperous. But when he is woken by his wife the next evening, he discovers that Nuri, the barber, has disappeared without a trace in the dead of night, and the community begins to fracture.
In a nameless town far away, Nuri walks into a barbershop as if from a dream, not knowing how he has arrived. Try as he might, he cannot grasp the strands of his memory. The facts of his past life shift and evade him, and as other customers come and go, they too struggle to recall how they got there.
Blurring the lines of reality to terrific effect, Shadowless is both a compelling mystery and an enduring evocation of displacement from one of the finest, most exciting voices in Turkish literature today.