now finished: Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer
now reading: oh hell, I have no idea
Well. I think that may have been a record for length of time without posting a blog entry. But I'm back! As you may(?) know, I was out of the country volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Tajikistan for a while during May. I also stopped in Istanbul on the way to and from. This wreaked havoc not only with my frequency of blog posting (oops!) but also my reading. Yikes.
In the end, I had to make some tough decisions, including getting some must-do research reading done for work assignments and putting personal reading projects on hold. I know, Moby, I know. You thought it was just like old times. Just another futile attempt to conquer The Whale. You're wrong, Moby! I'm back with you! I re-launched my re-re-re-reading of Moby Dick over Memorial Day weekend at Brian's family's "cottage" on Lake Michigan. I am on page 297. It is happening, for real.
But first, I will report on the book I read while traveling. I wanted to choose one Istanbul- and/or Turkey-related book. I had thought to read fiction, but a friend recommended the non-fiction Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer. It was really interesting and the perfect book to be reading while I was there. (I had precious little time for reading in Tajikistan, but it was fine there, too.) Kinzer is a journalist who has reported from many countries and was the New York Times bureau chief in Istanbul during the late 1990s. He does a great job of explaining how and why Turkey is part Asia and part Europe, geographically, historically, politically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
The book is a basic primer to what's up with Turkey, so you can plunge in whether you know anything or not. As I said, it was a real value added to the stuff I learned while there, and I even discussed some of what I learned from it with our Sultanahmet tour guide.
It gives you a lot of hope for Turkey, the modern world, the Islamic world, and stuff like that. It also makes the case for how awesome and important Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is. And yet, do we learn one thing about him in the United States? We do not. I wasn't even sure on his specifics when I was booking my flights into Istanbul's Ataturk airport. What a damn shame! I think I might make it a little research project goal to read up on the people whose names show up in each country's largest airports. Seems like a good way in to at least a little info about the country. I mean, reading about JFK, for example, would be a good intro for someone who knows nothing about the U.S., yes?
Speaking of presidents, yes, I will be posting soon about Martin Van Buren and then William Henry Harrison as I continue my presidential bios quest. But Herman! Moby! I'm ba-a-a-ack!