This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
It’s been 3 years since Anthony Bourdain passed away so you might be wondering how he’s authored a book. World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, published last month, is actually authored by longtime assistant Laurie Woolever and was something they discussed during a short conversation they had just months before his death. Bourdain had the idea of a world travel guide and after his death, Woolever decided to make this idea a reality. With an hour of audio recorded during that conversation along with Woolever’s own notes, the book came to life, peppered with stories from friends, colleagues, family and those he met along the way in his travels. It might not be the Bourdain book you were expecting but if you’re travel-starved from staying home during the pandemic, this might be a great summer read for you.
From the publisher:
Anthony Bourdain saw more of the world than nearly anyone. […] In World Travel, a life of experience is collected into an entertaining, practical, fun and frank travel guide that gives readers an introduction to some of his favorite places—in his own words. Featuring essential advice on how to get there, what to eat, where to stay and, in some cases, what to avoid, World Travel provides essential context that will help readers further appreciate the reasons why Bourdain found a place enchanting and memorable.
Supplementing Bourdain’s words are a handful of essays by friends, colleagues, and family that tell even deeper stories about a place, including sardonic accounts of traveling with Bourdain by his brother, Christopher; a guide to Chicago’s best cheap eats by legendary music producer Steve Albini, and more. Additionally, each chapter includes illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook.
Any book with Bourdain’s name on it has already a big reputation to live up to and this is no exception. If you don’t approach it as if it’s going to be one of *his* books (it’s not the Bourdain of Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw or No Reservations), rather, if you look at this as a peek into his travels from the vantage point of those in his close circles, this is an enjoyable read. It will definitely give you itchy feet!
The book is divided into chapters (43) each covering a different country, so it’s not an in-depth look at any one country. Some chapters include information on multiple cities, some just one city and some are just general information about the country (Laos, for example, where he discusses Luang Prabang and the Plain of Jars in a general discussion). Chapters consist of regular “travel guide information” (arrival, transportation, places to stay and places to eat, of course) along with Bourdain’s quotes and memories about those places. This information is interspersed with stories from those who knew him (including a charming tale from Bourdain’s brother Christopher about their first family trip to France (on the Queen Mary, no less) in 1966).
A book filled with SO much information can feel like a bit much sometimes, so it’s not a book that I would recommend sitting down and reading in one sitting. In fact, this actually makes it the perfect summer read – you can dive in to a chapter at a time (and they don’t need to be read in order).
I’ve been dipping in and out of this over the past couple of weeks; it’s nice to have a book that you can read a little bit of and come back to without feeling like you’ve forgotten what was happening (hello end of school brain!). It’s also the type of book you might like to take a look at before you travel to any of these places if you are interested in checking out what Bourdain loved about them. Obviously things change rapidly in the food landscape (especially now!) and some places might have shuttered their doors by the time you get there, but it’s great to get a feel for the place, even if you aren’t able to go to the same places to eat/ drink/ sleep etc… (am I the only one who likes to read travel guide books years after I’ve taken the trips?).
An irreverent guide, indeed. Especially if you read the Bourdain quotes in his voice in your head (I can’t help it!).
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