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Book: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide

By Anthony Bourdain with Laurie Woolever
Published in 2021 by Ecco
Finished reading: October 23rd, 2021
Rating: 3 / 5


n 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.


In the English-speaking world, there has always been a certain ambivalence about taking pleasure at the table. There has been this notion that if you take too much pleasure in your food, then it might somehow lead to bad character. It might lead to harder stuff, like sex, for instance. I think the French have always understood that, yeah, hell yeah, it does lead to sex, and it should. That residual sense of food being good, food being important, food being worth waiting for, and food being worth spending time with: eating is, and should be, a joyous occasion.


It has its amusing parts. It’s a not-really-a-travel-guide in which every country starts with an abbreviated section on how to get there and how much a taxi/bus/train from the airport to the city centre should cost. There are recommendations for accomodations that are, with very few exceptions, so far out of my price range as to be useless. The chapter for the USA is 100 pages long, almost 25% of the book, the chapter on Tanzania, one of the few countries in the book I’ve actually visited and had an interest in reading about Bourdain’s take on the country’s cuisine, is 4.5 pages long and doesn’t talk about food.

What I mostly took away from the book is an overall sense of what to look for if visiting a specific part of a country. It didn’t make me want to visit a country and more or any less than I already do, and it didn’t really prepare me for visiting anywhere beyond specific dishes a specific part of a country does well. The book could have left out the getting to/from the airport and the accommodation sections and replaced them with more food and culture.

Bourdain’s enthusiasm for these places comes through in most of the book, and that’s what saves the whole thing . You get a very real sense of how much he loves food and the people who devote their lives to perfecting their particular dishes. I can’t use this book as a travel guide but what I can use it for is as a reminder to keep being curious and adventurous, whether it’s halfway around the world or in an unvisited restaurant in my own city.