Anthony Bourdain World Travel Review: Coloring a Destination’s Edges

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Illustration: Gel Jamlang 

“Did the world need another travel guide, and did we need to write it?” asks Laurie Woolever.

The question arose in March 2017, as she and the late Anthony Bourdain considered a guidebook that would catalog the world as seen through the famed chef and CNN host’s penetrating eyes. With his expanding roster of TV and publishing contracts, his co-author wondered, had the universe reached “peak Bourdain”?

No, she decided. “Maybe the world could use another travel guide, full of Tony’s acid wit and thoughtful observations and a few sly revelations of the mysterious contours of his battered heart.”

Woolever paints a vivid picture of eventually brainstorming the book on a single day a year later, in March 2018, sitting in a cloud of smoke at Bourdain’s dining room table. He had styled his Manhattan apartment as an homage to his favorite hotel suite at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. She emerged smelling like she’d been out on the town in New York, before the city’s indoor smoking ban. Her head was filled with ideas for essays, such as one about the countries that had banned Bourdain—most famously, Azerbaijan, for traveling to the contentious Nagorno-Karabakh region.

relates to Anthony Bourdain Gives His Last Advice on How to Travel the World

It’s this feeling of being in the room with Bourdain that makes World Travel: An Irreverent Guide (Ecco, April 20; $35) so tantalizing. As someone who knew him for many years, I saw the effect he had when he sat down at a restaurant: The place would snap into the very best incarnation of itself.

His book of idiosyncratic tourism advice through cities in 43 countries provides that sense of intimacy. Sure, it evokes familiar, well-worn travel guides such as Let’s Go. It even includes “Arrival and Getting Around” tips for each place, information that’s readily available on innumerable websites. Most of the featured restaurants, hotels, and odd tourist attractions won’t surprise anyone who has watched a marathon of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown or No Reservations series or knows local food scenes in general.

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