Armenia is one of my favourite small countries. Whilst there I read plenty of books about Armenia to get more of an insight into the countries past.
These are 7 of the best books I read.
The Sandcastle Girls
The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian’s Armenian heritage.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide.
There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.
Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought.
But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss – and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.
The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey
An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story
In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. He is separated from his family as they are swept up in the government’s mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps.
Gradually realizing the unthinkable—that they are all being driven to their deaths—he fights, through starvation and thirst, not to lose hope. Just before killing squads slaughter his caravan during a forced desert march, Stepan manages to escape, making a perilous six-day trek to the Euphrates River carrying nothing more than two cups of water and one gold coin.
In his desperate bid for survival, Stepan dons disguises, outmanoeuvres gendarmes, and, when he least expects it, encounters the miraculous kindness of strangers.
The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals.
Reading this rare firsthand account, his granddaughter Dawn MacKeen finds herself first drawn into the colorful bazaars before the war and then into the horrors Stepan later endured. Inspired to retrace his steps, she sets out alone to Turkey and Syria, shadowing her resourceful, resilient grandfather across a landscape still rife with tension.
With his journals guiding her, she grows ever closer to the man she barely knew as a child. Their shared story is a testament to family, home, and the power of the human spirit to transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and even time itself.
The Forty Days of Musa Dagh
This stirring, poignant novel, based on real historical events that made of actual people true heroes, unfolds the tragedy that befell the Armenian people in the dark year of 1915.
The Great War is raging through Europe, and in the ancient, mountainous lands southwest of the Caspian Sea, the Turks have begun systematically to exterminate their Christian subjects.
Unable to deny his birthright or his people, one man, Gabriel Bagradian—born an Armenian, educated in Paris, married to a Frenchwoman, and an officer doing his duty as a Turkish subject in the Ottoman army—will strive to resist death at the hands of his blood enemy by leading 5,000 Armenian villagers to the top of Musa Dagh, “the mountain of Moses.”
There, for forty days, in the face of almost certain death, they will suffer the siege of a Turkish army hell-bent on genocide. A passionate warning against the dangers of racism and scapegoating, and prefiguring the ethnic horrors of World War II, this important novel from the early 1930s remains the only significant treatment, in fiction or nonfiction, of the first genocide in the twentieth century’s long series of inhumanities.
The Bastard of Istanbul
Elif Shafak confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States.
At its centre is the “bastard” of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlour and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster.
Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.
Black Dog of Fate
The first-born son of his generation, Peter Balakian grew up in a close, extended family, sheltered by 1950s and ’60s New Jersey suburbia and immersed in an all-American boyhood defined by rock ‘n’ roll, adolescent pranks, and a passion for the New York Yankees that he shared with his beloved grandmother.
But beneath this sunny world lay the dark spectre of the trauma his family and ancestors had experienced–the Turkish government’s extermination of more than a million Armenians in 1915, including many of Balakian’s relatives, in the century’s first genocide.
In elegant, moving prose, Black Dog of Fate charts Balakian’s growth and personal awakening to the facts of his family’s history and the horrifying aftermath of the Turkish government’s continued campaign to cover up one of the worst crimes ever committed against humanity.
Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan
Though the countries in the Persian culinary region are home to diverse religions, cultures, languages, and politics, they are linked by beguiling food traditions and a love for the fresh and the tart.
Colour and spark come from ripe red pomegranates, golden saffron threads, and the fresh herbs served at every meal. Grilled kebabs, barbari breads, pilafs, and brightly coloured condiments are everyday fare, as are rich soup-stews called ash and alluring sweets like rose water pudding and date-nut halvah.
Our ambassador to this tasty world is the incomparable Naomi Duguid, who for more than 20 years has been bringing us exceptional recipes and mesmerizing tales from regions seemingly beyond our reach.
More than 125 recipes, framed with stories and photographs of people and places, introduce us to a culinary paradise where ancient legends and ruins rub shoulders with new beginnings—where a wealth of history and culinary traditions makes it a compelling place to read about for cooks and travelers and for anyone hankering to experience the food of a wider world.
The Spice Box Letters
Katerina inherits a scented, wooden spice box after her grandmother Mariam dies. It contains letters and a diary, written in Armenian.
As she pieces together her family story, Katerina learns that Mariam’s childhood was shattered by the Armenian tragedy of 1915.
Mariam was exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her beloved brother, Gabriel, her life marred by grief and the loss of her first love.
Dissatisfied and restless, Katerina tries to find resolution in her own life as she completes Mariam’s story – on a journey that takes her across Cyprus and then half a world away to New York.
Books About Armenia
Although I have no articles about my time travelling in Armenia I have plenty of countries nearby such as taking the train from Istanbul into Georgia and then by bus to Armenia.
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