In the latest in our series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, Bengi Bezirgan, a PhD student in the LSE Department of Sociology, shares her favourite bookshops in Istanbul, Turkey. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.
Bookshops are much more than just sites for searching for and buying books; they are the starting points for intellectual and academic enthusiasm for knowledge. Two bookshops are my ‘safe zones’ in Istanbul: Robinson Crusoe 389 and Penguin Bookshop. Students and academics should really seek these out when visiting the city.
Robinson Crusoe 389, located in the Istiklal Street/Beyoglu, is an ideal hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and it provides a good range of English-language titles as well as books in Turkish. In addition to its wide book and journal collection, the calm ambiance and beautiful interiors make visitors feel as if they are in an old-fashioned library.
Recently, however, Robinson Crusoe 389 had to cope with financial problems due to escalating rents and urban renewal projects in the Beyoğlu district. The owners organised a “Pay Now Buy Later” campaign in order to overcome a cash shortage. First you top up your RobKart – the specific card prepared for this campaign – and then you can buy your books or give this card as a gift. There is a determined minimum amount that you need to pay but you can use this card anytime. Some Turkish authors have also supported the store through book-signing sessions. In line with the owners’ claim I also believe that this bookshop has become an answer for the question of “what is a cultural asset?” and it certainly deserves to host new visitors from all over the world.
Across the Bosporus, on the Asian side of Istanbul, Penguin Bookshop* stocks not only a distinctive collection of various genres but also offers visitors the chance to be part of a local community. Its central location in Kadıkoy makes it accessible to everyone, and knowledgeable and friendly staff remind visitors why it’s best to buy in-store, not online. The owners have succeeded in creating a cosy atmosphere and convenient place for bookworms of all ages. Although the bookshop has no website, it has an active Facebook page in which new arrivals and discounts are posted and photos of the bookshop cat are shared, so you are able to become involved in this interactive environment.
*Since publishing, Penguin Bookshop has sadly closed down. Instead, readers might like to browse the book and paper market Sahaflar Çarşısı, shown below.
Bengi Bezirgan obtained a B.S degree in Sociology and completed minor programme in European Studies/International Relations in 2007. She graduated in 2010 with a M.S degree in Sociology from Middle East Technical University, Ankara-Turkey. Currently, Bengi is a PhD student in the department of Sociology at the London School of Economics. Her research examines the Armenian issue in Turkey by focusing on media representations and nationalism debates. Read more reviews by Bengi.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.
As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.
Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.
If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.
Email us now if you’d like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org
I completely agree with Bengi Bezirgan’s choices, but I would like to also recommend Pandora Bookstore.
Here is a short review of it:
City bookshops should be places where a wide-spectrum of human achievement can be accessed through the printed page, as well as an escape from the oppressive bustle of the crowds outside. Pandora Bookstore in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, satisfies both of these criteria. The range of titles on offer is astonishing. In the philosophy section you can pick up anything from Marshall Berman’s The Politics of Authenticity (1970) to Malcolm Bull’s Anti-Nietzsche (2014). This wide, and unusual, temporal range is the case in many of the subject areas on offer. Its philosophy, politics and Middle Eastern history sections are particularly good, but it also has a good selection of books on architecture. Unusually, you can also pick up many academic texts often only to be found on the Internet. It has the advantages of online shopping in the much more agreeable form of a bookshop.