Biography, Essays, Nonfiction, Travel

World Travel by Anthony Bourdain

I’d been looking forward to an Anthony Bourdain travel guide for years, hoping that eventually he would sit still long enough to write it. When he died, I thought we’d never get one and I was quite excited when it was announced that Laurie, his longtime assistant, would edit and assemble one instead.

Synopsis

From the publisher marketing:
A guide to some of the world’s most fascinating places, as seen and experienced by writer, television host, and relentlessly curious traveler Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain saw more of the world than nearly anyone. His travels took him from the hidden pockets of his hometown of New York to a tribal longhouse in Borneo, from cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, Paris, and Shanghai to Tanzania’s utter beauty and the stunning desert solitude of Oman’s Empty Quarter–and many places beyond.

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.

For veteran travelers, armchair enthusiasts, and those in between, World Travel offers a chance to experience the world like Anthony Bourdain.

Review

For the past few days I’ve been looking back on my photos of Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands, a place I visited three years ago, a time that feels both like an eternity passed, and as if it was just last week. I miss travel. I miss international travel. I miss the UK, a place my sister and I have started to think of as our second home, her in London, me in Scotland. And when I desperately miss travel, I watch Parts Unknown, as I am right now as I write this, and remind myself that I will get to go back to the places I love. And I’ve been struggling to write this review for a year and a half now, since I first got the advance copy, wondering how on earth to say what I really wan to say.

I wanted to be in love with this book, the last Bourdain. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly irreverent, or exciting, which is incredibly disappointing. The introduction sheds light on how the book came to be – a brainstorming session between Tony and Laurie about writing a travel guide, something I, along with his legions of fans, desperately wanted from him, even if he wasn’t particularly inclined to write one. After the introduction, the book is structured as a typical travel guide with transcriptions of Tony’s voiceover from the relevant show and episode in which he visited that particular locale.

When the words aren’t all his (and Laurie is a wonderful writer), I struggle. When I found out there would be an audiobook, I was incredibly confused. Tony’s audiobooks were always so good because he did them himself. At least here, his brother Chris reads his words, the closest we’ll come to hearing him read them again. But if I can’t hear him read it, I’d prefer to re-watch his shows, where I get to have his voice. While the book was a great idea, I’d still rather watch the episode. Or download it to my iPad to watch en route to the location because the physical book is a beast. It is hardcover, weighs two pounds, and not an easy thing to carry around.

What I did enjoy, and was glad to have expanded in Bourdain, were the interludes from people he knew and interacted with on his travels. They’re a magnificent addition to the guide and offer a bit of the exposition that Tony would have added, had he still be alive to do so. And I think ultimately that is my greatest disappointment. Tony didn’t write this book. Laurie did. And what I really wanted, was a last glimpse into Tony’s nomadic culinary life.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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