A surprising amount of good books exist on the culture and carpets of Turkmenistan. Less surprising perhaps, there is a big gap in the market for any other type of book on Turkmenistan.
Good travelogues and historical accounts of Central Asia that include Turkmenistan can be found in the Central Asia books section.
Best books on Turkmenistan
Peter Hopkirk has a string of books on the spies and secret agents of the Great Game. This book plays mostly in Turkmenistan, and deals with the plot by the Turks and Germans during the First World War to overthrow the British empire in India. At 450 pages, not his lightest read, but well worth the effort if the last sentence piqued your interest.
Peyrouse is an expert on Central Asia, and this book is the best introduction to Turkmenistan for the interested reader, with an overview of the history and a lot of background on the oil and gas sector. It’s not targeted to a layman audience, so be prepared for quite a dry read.
A compilation of reviews: A little dated, but I enjoyed the rare insight into Turkmen life…. A rambling travelogue of the author’s often-frustrating, often-rewarding quest to ride the famous Ahal Tekke horses of Turkmenistan….. To be fair, the author’s love of the people and the horses shines through his bitterness about the inane bureaucracy and rough conditions he must endure…. One of the very few books out there about Turkmenistan at all, and thus worth a read.
What can I say? It’s a classic. This is what Turkmens were brainwashed with for years during the eccentric rule of Turkmenbashi, and it’s craaazzzy. Reading it is very difficult though, sometimes the words are really just randomly put together, it seems.
Badly written travelogue by a former US embassy worker. You might want to give it a try if you really want to learn more about Turkmenistan, since there isn’t much else out there, and he did travel around quite a bit. But really, I prefer to read an actual writer instead, and visit Turkmenistan all the same.
Primarily for botany geeks. For those who are not botanically inclined, this book still has its merits. I particularly liked the author’s descriptions of the Turkmen landscape and his stories about the problems of being a scientist in the Soviet Union. I believe this is quite a good book, just not everyone’s kind of book.
An academic study of nation-building in the newly created SSR of Turkmenistan during Soviet times.
Culture of Turkmenistan
This study of Turkmen women and their folk songs looks at religion, ritual and family as seen through the eyes of the women and their songs.
The Hoffmeister Collection is one of the best and most extensive private collections of antique and historic Turkmen knotted carpets in Western Europe and America.
From the publisher: The Turkmen people of Central Asia and Iran are revered for their carpets and textiles. Less well known, but equally stunning, is the extraordinary silver jewelry created by Turkmen tribal craftsmen and urban silversmiths throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. This catalogue presents nearly two hundred pieces in glorious detail, ranging from crowns and headdresses to armbands and rings, and featuring accents of carnelian, turquoise, and other stones.
A look at one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Turkmen rugs, the Wiedersperg collection.
Other books on Turkmenistan
I found this one in a book shop once and quickly leafed through it. Some nice pictures, but already outdated now that Turkmenbashi’s reign has ended. Something for hipsters.
I have no intention whatsoever to read this book by a returned Peace Corps volunteer. I really enjoyed reading this review of it, though.
Another Peace Corps volunteer book, Joe and Azat presents a look into an unfamiliar culture in the form of a graphic novel, but the overall story is disjointed and bordering on stereotypical (and short). Lonergan often resorts to the overdone cliché of American meets funny foreigner and gets in crazy situations, and there is very little factual information about the country.
ANOTHER Peace Corps book, this one gets rave reviews on Amazon. I honestly couldn’t care less about her story, but others might find this interesting.
AAARRGGHHH! Another Peace Corps Volunteer! This one is a f@%!ing pastry chef! Seriously, why?