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Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  793 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
"A sharp, spirited appreciation of where Turkey stands now, and where it may head." —Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

In the first edition of this widely praised book, Stephen Kinzer made the convincing claim that Turkey was the country to watch—poised between Europe and Asia, between the glories of its Ottoman past and its hopes for a democratic future, between the
ebook, 288 pages
Published September 22nd 2001 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Oct 19, 2007 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: turkey
I was equal parts enthralled and frustrated by this book. Kinzer clearly loves Turkey. He adores it. He sees how insanely fucked up it is, but loves it anyway. While he is not an apologist for for the essentially military-run government, he deftly puts it into a perspective in a way only a person who is both an insider and an outsider can, which as a whole makes certain events (like the military coups) much more understandable in post-Ataturk Turkey.
However, he on occasion comes off as the lectu
Dec 09, 2011 Gordon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer is an ex-New York Times correspondent who has written about many parts of the world, while based in locations as varied as Nicaragua, Berlin and Istanbul, the latter two as bureau chief. He has covered Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Turkey, Africa … -- in short, he's been around.

I picked up this book because I read one of his previous efforts, Blood of Brothers, while travelling through Nicaragua in 2008. Daniel Ortega had just been re-elected, and the book dea
Turkey is an anomaly. For centuries, it was the dreaded foe of Christendom, twice pushing at the very gates of Vienna. After the Great War, when the victorious west disassembled the Ottoman Empire and reduced the Turks to mere Antaolia, it seemed a total defeat -- but shortly thereafter, a rare Turkish hero of the Great War led a revolution and established a new Turkish Republic, one that -- phoenix like -- drove away its exhausted enemies and even reclaimed a foothold into Europe. It was to Eur ...more
Regina Lindsey
Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer
4.5 Stars Rounded to 5

I’ve always had a fascination with Turkey. It is at the crossroads of so much history. Geographically, it straddles two continents and it known as “the place where East meets West.” Its religious history is unique and it is one of the few countries in which democracy is evolving out of a former dictatorship. It is simply a country full of dichotomies. Yet, it is a country that hesitates to fully embrace its rich past in order to continue i
Henna Pääkkönen
Jun 21, 2015 Henna Pääkkönen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
Kinzers book is a wonderful read to understand Turkish 20th century history and politics and the challenges that the country has faced and faces in being in the crossroads of Europe and Middle East, with multiple ethnicities and religions. The book basically covers the period from Ataturk to Erdogan, discusses Kemalism, the Army, Religion, Kurdish problems, Armenian past, and the democratization challeges. Turkeys strive for EU membership and the changing foreign policy of country are also cover ...more
Jun 14, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, finally, I am done. Please do not mistake the great length of time I took to complete this book to mean anything other than I am awful at managing time, this was a great book. As someone who visited Turkey and read a handful of literature about the great city of Istanbul and life under the Ottoman Empire this book wove together a bunch of missing facts and political details, I was otherwise unaware of.

It is obvious the author is passionately in love with this county, he can portray it for a
Jun 16, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in the very early 21st century, this book combines 20th century history with current politics to give the reader a history and contemporary view of Turkey. The author has spent many years in the country as a journalist, and he clearly has a great love of his subject. He serves as a major booster for the country. Since this book was written 10 years ago, much of the contemporary information is dated, but Kinzer has done a good job of predicting future trends. Many of the author's predicti ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second Kinzer book I've read. He's a talented writer who brings his subject to life with a clear, direct, active style.

In both books I've read, Crescent and Star and All the Shah's Men (about the US/British overthrow of the Mossadegh government in Iran), Kinzer turns potentially dry subjects into page-turners.

Perhaps as a by-product of his accessible style, Kinzer arrives at simplistic solutions. In Crescent and Star, the overall thesis is that the founders of the Turkish Republic we
Apr 16, 2008 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Crescent and Star is probably a bit basic for anyone who's familiar with Turkish politics and 20th century history, but I found it a great sub-250 page introduction. It focuses almost exclusively on the Turkish Republic and its people, from Ataturk to the present, but not at all in chronological order. I don't know how objective this book is, as the author, a American journalist, spends plenty of words criticizing (berating?) the military and its omnipresent role in government. But you might, to ...more
This book provides a look at some of the struggles of modern Turkey and some of the history that preceded them. I'd give it one more star, but recent history (the book was published in 2008) shows that the book's hopeful tone is overdone, and left me wanting an update from Kinzer. Luckily, Kinzer is a journalist, and still writes commentary on Turkey, so I suppose I can just google some newer material.

Overall, this book provided good insights to the Republic's founding under Kemal Ataturk, and
Abraham Gustavson
Apr 06, 2015 Abraham Gustavson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in preparation to going on spring holiday to Turkey. Stephen Kinzer does an excellent job prepping his readers to both understand modern issues in that country, but also peppers his work with small, almost journal like entries that bring this truly unique modern country alive. One short to be remembered was the author's retelling of when he swam the Bosporous straight and the extraordinary feeling of being connected to both Asia and Europe. Kinzer provides ample amount of detail ...more
Jul 27, 2015 Nosmo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been very impressed by everything by Kinzer that I've read, yet this book was somehow the one I objected to the most. Admittedly I view much of his political writing from a differing position so I'm in no way surprised that a heavily personal book didn't quite gel with me. But therein lies one of my favourite things about the book - Kinzer unashamedly injects personal experience, opinion and personality throughout the book and so I found that the italicised portions gave the following chapt ...more
Xander Mitchell
I'll be living in Turkey this summer, and I decided to pick up Stephen Kinzer's book to prime myself on the country's political situation/basic history. The book is a decent primer, and while I give it credit for this, it's just not that fantastic overall. Stephen Kinzer does this extremely awkward balancing act by alternating chapters in which he praises Turkish culture as relaxed and ideal, and then leads a Western-centric assault on everything about the government immediately afterwards. It i ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the most informative book I have yet found of Turkish history/politics/et cetera. For this reason, I approve.
The two worlds here of the title are that west and east divide that much of world politics consists of: west being new-age and east being old-world. Uh oh, I'm not awake...

*shuts eyes, counts to thirty, returns*

OK, I am sick, so I must get to sleep now. (My illness probably is eating at my opinion of this book.) But, I want to promote it!
If this area and its people are included
Jan 26, 2014 Faye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer was a journalist who lived in Turkey for a long time and his book has personal impressions as well as interesting political commentary and historical perspective. Great read in preparation for my trip to Turkey in a few months.
Selcuk dönmez
Apr 02, 2014 Selcuk dönmez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You insult turkish people all over the world, turk state, everything that made up my people. Stop this.
Stephen kinzer doesnt know anything about my country, and people. So who are you that saying about turkisness. According to you turk isnt etnic people. It is only common name that given by Atatürk.

"We are turk nomads. We are Yoruk, Turkmen, Turkic people. We have several state and the last one Turkey Repeblic will live forever. Atatürk says that "One day my mortal body will turn to dust, but
I've read some of Kinzer's other books, and this was not my favorite. Kinzer lived in Turkey for an extended period and therefore one would expect a fairly solid outing in this book. The book explores broad themes, and therefore presents a non-linear narrative of Turkish history and society, which jumps back and forth between different time periods. For the beginner on Turkey, this presents a bit more of a confusing read, and one can't help but feel that the book would be better organized if pre ...more
Generally interesting and well-written history of Turkey. However, I started this book looking for some history with a current perspective, wanting to know what life and the politics are for the Turkish people today. Wrong book. This was published in 1999, I believe, which is 16 years ago. And it was confusing. When the text would read " in Turkey...." I would have to remind myself that it may no longer be the same today.

I actually didn't read the whole book, but skimmed most of it once
Justin Tapp
Jun 13, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in preparation for going to Turkey in August. Kinzer is a former NY Times correspondent who has written several books. Seems like he is a good journalist who learned the language and culture very well and was granted access to important figures.

One passage from his inter-chapter interludes got me particularly excited, Kinzer talks about the countless historically and archeologically significant sites that no one even knows about:

"Even the discovered sites are so remote and widely scat
When digesting Stephen Kinzer's book, "Crescent and Star," the reader may feel that Turkey is much like the exotic spice bazaars in Istanbul lovingly described by the author. Like those clamorous bazaars, the land of Atatürk is an iconoclastic milieu of both ancient and modern in which the denizens loudly haggle among themselves about the direction their country should go. This spirited debate on a national level – as well its chaotic uncertainty – underscores every chapter and, in the eyes of K ...more
Dec 11, 2010 Blue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Kinzer is a great writer and a good storyteller. He alternates cultural mini-chapters with more analytical writing in Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. As a Turk who was heavily brainwashed with the "official history of the country during and post-Ataturk", there is much I can and should read, and this book is a good starting point. I can write a whole other book as a response to Kinzer's very insightful study, but for the most part I agree with the bulk of his criticisms and analyse ...more
Jun 01, 2010 Guy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, travel
Kinzer was a foreign correspondent for the NY Times who lived in Turkey for several years and who clearly has a deep and abiding affection for the country. For my money (and, after just one trip of two and a half weeks to Turkey, albeit intense, I am anything but an expert), he does a good job of deconstructing the puzzle that is the Turkish Republic: militantly secular and yet deeply Islamic, attached to its traditions but determined to modernize, unable to decide if it is a multi-ethnic state ...more
An interesting read if only because Kinzer is tending to approach Turkey from a Turkey-is-European (or at least proto-European) than a Turkey-is-fundamentally-different standpoint. I worry that Kinzer is eliding some important differences even though he does do a fine job of balancing his viewpoint.

As with any book written about a country by a non-native, I also worry about his pile of "reccomendations" for Turkey, and am concerned that his obvious pro-Europe slant is coloring his perceptions of
Aug 23, 2013 Nicolette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally! A political, historical, and cultural book that is not written by the likes of bored, mindless, uncreative drones at McGraw Hill! I absolutely love social science/historical books that aren't written in your typical textbook format. The book was certainly thorough and interesting; I lived in Turkey for quite some time and felt myself reliving some of those moments by the pictures painted by Kinzer throughout his book.

There were some things that I did question (I have it noted in the ma
Apr 14, 2008 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: light-nonfiction
I picked this up based on the recommendations of Goodreads users. I was hoping for a good history of modern Turkey, and instead found a journalistic sketch of the country. I was not impressed. Bouncing around between history, contemporary politics (circa early 2001), and light observations of Turkish life, Kinzer spends a good deal of time scolding the Turks for failing to fully embrace democracy. The word "should" appears prominently in each chapter, and I found this to be both distasteful and ...more
Carolyn Browne
Jan 23, 2016 Carolyn Browne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"f Turkey lived up to its potential, it could rule the world - but will it? A passionate report from the front lines For centuries few terrors were more vivid in the West than fear of "the Turk," and many people still think of Turkey as repressive, wild, and dangerous. Crescent and Star is Stephen Kinzer's compelling report on the truth..."
Jan 27, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: turkey
A readable and consistently interesting short introduction to current political trends and issues in Turkey. Kinzer was the NYT's Istanbul bureau chief in the late 90s and his strong affection for the country comes through on every page as he lucidly and concisely walks you through fascinating twists and turns from Ataturk to Erdogan.

Turkey is in a remarkable political moment, with an Islamist government gently but firmly prying the military's fingers off of the political machinery, and democra
Great information. I felt like the book could have been a 5 if Stephen had kept to a chronological order. For the most part he did, but he jumped back and forth from the 1980's through 2007. It left me feeling disoriented about the present state of Turkey. His last chapter attempted to show the present state of Turkey, but Stephen again left me feeling like Turkey is on the brink of disaster and also so close to becoming what it has desired to be for so long. That is probably the intended effect ...more
I thought this was an interesting book. It was a little difficult to follow at times because the author doesn't always lay things out in chronological order, but I liked some of the author's personal stories. I thought some of the judgements made by the author were biased towards the liberal side (in terms of America) but maybe that is just popular opinion in Turkey.
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source)
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