After the death of Anthony Bourdain in 2018, there has been a number of books published about his life less ordinary.
His long-time assistant Laurie Woolever released “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography” in 2021, which was a collection of quotes assembled in chronological order. She also published “World Travel: An Irreverent Guide” in the same year, which was originally intended to be co-written with Bourdain. But if you’ve seen the series, there is nothing new here at all. I mostly use it as a look-up reference for a specific country.
Last year the unauthorized biography “Down and Out in Paradise” by Charles Leerhsen saw a lot of controversy. While it’s a fascinating mix of assorted details, it’s also quite intrusive, exploiting a dead man. For some reason the author seems to have a fixation with connecting dots leading into the suicide, at the expense of Bourdain’s good sides.
The biographies are interesting in their own way, but they are not really focusing on the actual travels of Bourdain. In my opinion, the most honest and interesting take is “In the Weeds” by Tom Vitale, published in 2021. He was director and producer of the series No Reservations and Parts Unknown for over a decade, which made him share a lot of adventures with Bourdain.
“In the Weeds” is a fascinating and often hilarious account of what went on backstage during decades of filming. This is a honest story coming from someone who obviously knew Bourdain very well, cherishing the memory of his good side while cursing the consequences of the dark side.
If you enjoyed the polished surface of No Reservations and Parts Unknown, “In the Weeds” is the perfect companion to understand what really went on behind the scenes. Tom Vitale writes with warmth, humor and despair about the tragicomic events. If even a tenth of the anecdotes are true, it’s clear that being in the inner circle were not for the faint of heart.