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Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography

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An unprecedented behind-the-scenes view into the life of Anthony Bourdain from the people who knew him best  When Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man who had dedicated his life to traveling nearly everywhere (and eating nearly everything), shedding light on the lives and stories of others. His im An unprecedented behind-the-scenes view into the life of Anthony Bourdain from the people who knew him best  When Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man who had dedicated his life to traveling nearly everywhere (and eating nearly everything), shedding light on the lives and stories of others. His impact was outsized and his legacy has only grown since his death. Now, for the first time, we have been granted a look into Bourdain’s life through the stories and recollections of his closest friends and colleagues. Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s longtime assistant and confidante, interviewed nearly a hundred of the people who shared Tony’s orbit—from members of his kitchen crews to his writing, publishing, and television partners, to his daughter and his closest friends—in order to piece together a remarkably full, vivid, and nuanced vision of Tony’s life and work.  From his childhood and teenage days, to his early years in New York, through the genesis of his game-changing memoir Kitchen Confidential to his emergence as a writing and television personality, and in the words of friends and colleagues including Eric Ripert, José Andrés, Nigella Lawson, and W. Kamau Bell, as well as family members including his brother and his late mother, we see the many sides of Tony—his motivations, his ambivalence, his vulnerability, his blind spots, and his brilliance. Unparalleled in scope and deeply intimate in its execution, with a treasure trove of photos from Tony's life, Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a testament to the life of a remarkable man in the words of the people who shared his world.


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An unprecedented behind-the-scenes view into the life of Anthony Bourdain from the people who knew him best  When Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man who had dedicated his life to traveling nearly everywhere (and eating nearly everything), shedding light on the lives and stories of others. His im An unprecedented behind-the-scenes view into the life of Anthony Bourdain from the people who knew him best  When Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man who had dedicated his life to traveling nearly everywhere (and eating nearly everything), shedding light on the lives and stories of others. His impact was outsized and his legacy has only grown since his death. Now, for the first time, we have been granted a look into Bourdain’s life through the stories and recollections of his closest friends and colleagues. Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s longtime assistant and confidante, interviewed nearly a hundred of the people who shared Tony’s orbit—from members of his kitchen crews to his writing, publishing, and television partners, to his daughter and his closest friends—in order to piece together a remarkably full, vivid, and nuanced vision of Tony’s life and work.  From his childhood and teenage days, to his early years in New York, through the genesis of his game-changing memoir Kitchen Confidential to his emergence as a writing and television personality, and in the words of friends and colleagues including Eric Ripert, José Andrés, Nigella Lawson, and W. Kamau Bell, as well as family members including his brother and his late mother, we see the many sides of Tony—his motivations, his ambivalence, his vulnerability, his blind spots, and his brilliance. Unparalleled in scope and deeply intimate in its execution, with a treasure trove of photos from Tony's life, Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a testament to the life of a remarkable man in the words of the people who shared his world.

30 review for Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hicks

    I'm not the type of guy that goes gaga for celebrities or obsesses over them, but Anthony Bourdain was a rare exception to that rule. I connected with him over the course nearly two decades of television between No Reservations, The Layover, The Taste, and Parts Unknown, not to mention his books, Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw. (I have, but have not yet read, his comics, which include two volumes of Get Jiro and Hungry Ghosts.) I share a birthday with his death day, and remember waking up t I'm not the type of guy that goes gaga for celebrities or obsesses over them, but Anthony Bourdain was a rare exception to that rule. I connected with him over the course nearly two decades of television between No Reservations, The Layover, The Taste, and Parts Unknown, not to mention his books, Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw. (I have, but have not yet read, his comics, which include two volumes of Get Jiro and Hungry Ghosts.) I share a birthday with his death day, and remember waking up the morning of June 8, 2018 to the news that he had hung himself in a French hotel while filming his CNN series. I've never really mourned or grieved the loss of a celebrity before, at least not in anyway beyond a superficial, "Man, that sucks, it's a shame they won't be making any more movies or books or music" kind of way. Bourdain's suicide hit me hard, though, and even though I did not know him, it hit with me all the force of a lost friend or relative. Honestly, I'm still not over this loss, or the loss of what could have been given Bourdain's talents and potential. The fact of the matter is that, although I didn't know him, I kinda-sorta did. We all did. I had invited him into my home every week for years. I shared meals with the man. He introduced me to people and places I could not otherwise know. I sipped on hot coffee or glasses of whiskey while he told me stories of life as a line-chef or shared his irrational fear of the Swiss. While we didn't share addictions, we both certainly shared common ground in terms of mental health issues, which often led to dark jokes and wry, negatively-charged observations from each of us. Anthony Bourdain possessed a level of authenticity and honesty that was impossible to ignore, and he meant a lot to a lot of people around the world who never really knew him. Reading Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography, it's clear that those impressions were hardly a fluke. The line separating Bourdain the person from Bourdain the TV character was narrowly thin. While there were certainly differences between who he was and what he allowed himself to reveal in front of the TV camera, what you saw or read was largely who he really was. A brilliant writer, a charismatic and funny host, a lover of food and travel and people, constantly curious and knowledgable, narcissistic but also incredibly self-aware, one of the coolest cats around but a giant nerd at heart, an introvert in many ways, but one who could command the attention of an entire room and made himself the center of that attention and who gave his time selflessly to those around him. A former heroin addict, Bourdain was constantly finding and feeding new addictions to keep him clean, from travel to jiu jitsu, and romantic obsessions that he knew were doomed, such as his love affair with Asia Argento. Writer and editor Laurie Woolever was Bourdain's personal assistant, his lieutenant, for over a decade and co-authored Appetites: A Cookbook and World Travel: An Irreverent Guide with him. For The Definitive Oral Biography, she interviewed over 90 people that knew Bourdain at various points of his life, including his brother, Christopher, his mother, Gladys (who passed away in 2020), ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia, daughter Ariane, and those who worked closest with him, such as producer-director for Zero Point Zero Production, Helen Cho and Tom Vitale (whose own book about working and traveling with Bourdain, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, releases in October), Bourdain's literary agent Kimberly Weatherspoon, chefs José Andrés, Nigella Lawson (who co-hosted The Taste with Bourdain), Eric Ripert, and Roy Choi, as well as David Simon and Eric Overmyer, the cocreators of the HBO series, Treme, for which Bourdain wrote, movie director Darren Aronofsky, CNN reporters Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, and president of CNN worldwide, Jeff Zucker, and many, many, many more. Through all these various personalities, we're given an incredibly well-rounded, and, more importantly, honest, portrait of the late Bourdain, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As Woolever notes in her introduction, this biography is far from a hagiography and makes no attempts to deify the man it's about, just as Bourdain no doubt would have wanted. There's no sugar-coating the lesser aspects of Bourdain's personality, his addictions, or the questionable decisions he made along the way, including his toxic relationship with Argento and his final choice to commit suicide at the age of 61 in a Le Chambard hotel room. Even a year or two removed from Bourdain's death, you can feel the shock and grief and confusion in the words of those interviewed as they continue to struggle with the emotional fallout and process his reasons and behavior during the last year of his life as he was consumed by his affections and infatuation for Argento, a relationship that Bourdain was keenly aware was doomed to fail right from the start, telling friends, "It's gonna end so badly." Neither Bourdain or Argento come across particularly well in the accountings and recollections compiled here of that time, with the latter almost appearing as a virtual hurricane that upended Bourdain's life and wreaked devastation upon those closest to him, while Bourdain himself kowtows to the Italian actresses demands at the expense of his own long-term personal and professional relationships, and, ultimately, seemingly, his own mental health and well-being. Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a wide-ranging exploration of the man's life and larger-than-life legacy from those who knew him best. It's not always a pleasant read, particularly in the build-up to, and exploration of the aftermath of, his suicide, but for fans of the man hoping for a peek behind the curtain it certainly is a necessary read, for better or worse.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    At nearly 500 pages and with multiple interviews and insights from 91 different people who were important in his life at some point during his 61 years, this is the definitive biography of Anthony Bourdain, Contributors include his brother Chris, his mother Gladys, his wild and crazy guy friends who encouraged him to live carelessly, serious girlfriend Paula Froelich, his ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia. His daughter Ariane speaks about her father eloquently and lovingly. Many peers- journalists, che At nearly 500 pages and with multiple interviews and insights from 91 different people who were important in his life at some point during his 61 years, this is the definitive biography of Anthony Bourdain, Contributors include his brother Chris, his mother Gladys, his wild and crazy guy friends who encouraged him to live carelessly, serious girlfriend Paula Froelich, his ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia. His daughter Ariane speaks about her father eloquently and lovingly. Many peers- journalists, chefs, television producers- have plenty to add to who they percieved Bourdain to be. And the most common refrain was that nobody really knew Tony. Parts of the book within some interviews reflected upon loneliness in a situation where one is beloved by the world but not at peace inside. The rigors of constant travel, airports, hotels, setting up scenes to produce his various shows, and the toll it took on Bourdain. The depth and helplessness of his depression is very evident. The final section of the book in which Asia Argento, his last girlfriend, dominates his life is especially troubling. Someone equates it to Yoko Ono in a Beatles recording session. But it was clear that Tony Bourdain changed, more troubled and depressed, after meeting her and claiming to be deliriously in love. A very profound book. Many thinks to NetGalley and the publisher for ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie Yashur

    I am big fan of Anthony Bourdain and was extremely sad hearing of his passing. Therefore, I was very happy to have won this book in a goodreads giveaway. The format of this book takes a little getting used to because the author is including short stories from friends and colleagues about Anthony.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Not a typical biography, and the organization/thread of narrative was nonexistent. It seems like the author was not particularly selective about the anecdotes were included, appearing to aim more for quantity. Why so much Nigella Lawson? Why so little from Eric Ripert? What was the significance of including either? This book is basically a broken up collection of people drafting personal After Action Reports on their relationship with Bourdain. Definitely insightful, but not packaged in a way th Not a typical biography, and the organization/thread of narrative was nonexistent. It seems like the author was not particularly selective about the anecdotes were included, appearing to aim more for quantity. Why so much Nigella Lawson? Why so little from Eric Ripert? What was the significance of including either? This book is basically a broken up collection of people drafting personal After Action Reports on their relationship with Bourdain. Definitely insightful, but not packaged in a way that is easy for the reader or makes meaningful conclusions about the man

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Since I will never read a new book of Tony's again, this is the next best thing - a comprehensive portrait of the man by those who knew him best. It is, thankfully, not a hagiography - he was no saint. I'm also glad that the focus is not on his death but him as a person and, mostly, the twenty years of his life after Kitchen Confidential. The parts that are "missing" I'm glad are missing - there is nothing from Eric Ripert about his final days and his girlfriend at the time of his death is not i Since I will never read a new book of Tony's again, this is the next best thing - a comprehensive portrait of the man by those who knew him best. It is, thankfully, not a hagiography - he was no saint. I'm also glad that the focus is not on his death but him as a person and, mostly, the twenty years of his life after Kitchen Confidential. The parts that are "missing" I'm glad are missing - there is nothing from Eric Ripert about his final days and his girlfriend at the time of his death is not included at all. Ariane, his daughter, has the closing reflection of the book, a fitting tribute to her dad. For the past three years we've been searching for his voice as we all navigate through this crazy world and I finally feel like I can stop looking - he's gone, and this book will help everyone appreciate him, but acknowledge that there will never be another like him and for his fans, we just need to take his message, "be a traveler not a tourist" to heart and travel in his memory and finally say goodbye.

  6. 4 out of 5

    TL

    3.5 stars 🌟 🤩 ✨ Won this via goodreads giveaways, all my opinions are my own. ---- This took so long partly because I had some personal life stresses happening one right after the other and also the format made it feel longer than it was. I don't mean it in a bad way, it was an interesting book and I can't imagine it structured a different way but it also felt .slower (not sure how else to put it). I enjoyed learning about him and what he was like behind the scenes. With my bad memory, I was glad f 3.5 stars 🌟 🤩 ✨ Won this via goodreads giveaways, all my opinions are my own. ---- This took so long partly because I had some personal life stresses happening one right after the other and also the format made it feel longer than it was. I don't mean it in a bad way, it was an interesting book and I can't imagine it structured a different way but it also felt .slower (not sure how else to put it). I enjoyed learning about him and what he was like behind the scenes. With my bad memory, I was glad for the index of people in the beginning haha Anthony Bourdain was a complicated and interesting man. (I hope he's resting in peace). This would be a good introduction to him I think.

  7. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    This required a mulling period after completion. Like many fans, Bourdain’s death hit me like no other celebrity’s passing ever had. He was so accessible and relatable. If I could host a “famous people dinner party,” he’d be at the top of the list. This oral biography includes numerous stories and voices from his life. It’s a brutally honest and intimate; often beautiful, often sorrowful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is the story of the life of Anthony Bourdain as told through interviews with his family, closest friends, and colleagues. The book cover his early years, his success with the publishing of Kitchen Confidential, his life on television with No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and the parts of his life that were not as much in the public eye. Each person interviewed details the impact Bourdain had on their life along side telling his story. This book is so good Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is the story of the life of Anthony Bourdain as told through interviews with his family, closest friends, and colleagues. The book cover his early years, his success with the publishing of Kitchen Confidential, his life on television with No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and the parts of his life that were not as much in the public eye. Each person interviewed details the impact Bourdain had on their life along side telling his story. This book is so good, it is just so so good. The format of the book is a really great way to tell this story; the reader will feel like they are in conversation with each person being interviewed. I loved the incredible honesty presented in the book, even when it was not an easy or pretty story to tell. Readers unfamiliar with Bourdain will learn a lot about his life, and fans of Bourdain will appreciate the deep look into his life and the impact that he had on so many people. As to be expected, this book is not an easy read at times, so be prepared for the intense subject matter. I highly recommend this book for any reader with an interest in the life of Anthony Bourdain. Thanks to Netgalley and Ecco for this ARC; this is my honest and voluntary review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    GONZA

    A book that reconstructs the life of Anthony Bourdain through the words of family, friends and colleagues. From his early successes (which I remembered from Kitchen Confidential) to his suicide, which was instead known to me basically for the role Asia Argento seems to have played in the last year of his life. An over-the-top character throughout, but I personally regret never having seen an episode of his shows, a gap I intend to fill as soon as possible. Un libro che ricostruisce la vita di An A book that reconstructs the life of Anthony Bourdain through the words of family, friends and colleagues. From his early successes (which I remembered from Kitchen Confidential) to his suicide, which was instead known to me basically for the role Asia Argento seems to have played in the last year of his life. An over-the-top character throughout, but I personally regret never having seen an episode of his shows, a gap I intend to fill as soon as possible. Un libro che ricostruisce la vita di Anthony Bourdain attraverso le parole di familiari, amici e colleghi. Dai suoi primi successi (che io ricordavo da Kitchen Confidential) fino al suo suicidio, che invece mi era conosciuto fondamentalmente per il ruolo che sembra aver avuto Asia Argento nell'ultimo anno della sua vita. Un personaggio eccessivo in tutto, ma personalmente rimpiango di non aver mai visto una puntata dei suoi show, lacuna che intendo colmare quanto prima. I received from the Publisher a complimentary digital advanced review copy of the book in exchange for a honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Told in the format of interview snippets from friends, colleagues, and family of Anthony Bourdain, this is an in-depth look at his personal and professional lives. Because it was told from so many points of view, there was a bit of repetition but ultimately it was a fascinating look at a complicated man although no one ever seemed to know him. This is due to be published in late September and at the same time a book by Bourdain's long-time TV producer/director, Tom Vitale, In the Weeds: Around t Told in the format of interview snippets from friends, colleagues, and family of Anthony Bourdain, this is an in-depth look at his personal and professional lives. Because it was told from so many points of view, there was a bit of repetition but ultimately it was a fascinating look at a complicated man although no one ever seemed to know him. This is due to be published in late September and at the same time a book by Bourdain's long-time TV producer/director, Tom Vitale, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain is being published. If you are a fan of Bourdain, read them both as each gives a different perspective of Tony and In the Weeds gives more details about the making of the TV shows (No Reservations, Layover, and Parts Unknown). Thanks to HarperCollins for the advance reading copy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    Anthony Bourdain's legacy is that of a man who took an unlikely career path to fame and fortune, toured the world initially as a lark and ended up becoming a cultural reporter of unparalleled excellence and insight, and experienced a second-act life way beyond the scope of his first forty-plus years on this planet, as a line cook and struggling author. When he died in 2018, the world truly lost an icon. I think many of us who were fans of his work considered him more than just the person we saw Anthony Bourdain's legacy is that of a man who took an unlikely career path to fame and fortune, toured the world initially as a lark and ended up becoming a cultural reporter of unparalleled excellence and insight, and experienced a second-act life way beyond the scope of his first forty-plus years on this planet, as a line cook and struggling author. When he died in 2018, the world truly lost an icon. I think many of us who were fans of his work considered him more than just the person we saw on TV; we saw him as a friend. It's the people in his life who make up the voices heard in "Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography," by Laurie Woolever, and they paint a portrait of a very complicated man. Bourdain from his earliest days was the brightest kid in the room, a talented illustrator and writer who managed to find his way into working in kitchens and pursue his passion for cooking for the rest of his adult life. When he wrote "Kitchen Confidential" in 2000, his world changed; offers to travel and sample other countries' cuisine provided him with a platform to speak up about the world at large in a way that few Western travelers ever had before. The people who speak about him in this book all knew him at some stage of his life, or through all of it (like his mother, and younger brother Christopher). His many friends get a lot of opportunities to speak about him, but the most revealing are the comments by his two ex-wives and only daughter, showing that the man behind the persona was a warm, funny, loving presence when he wanted to be (and when he wasn't able to, he felt an immense guilt about the destruction of such elemental relationships and the collateral damage that could be inflicted). His last years get a healthy chunk of reportage here, with his relationship with Asia Argento and the complications in his life that arose from that. I don't personally think we'll ever really know what drove him to commit suicide in June 2018, and I'm not entirely comfortably "blaming" any one person or cause for it. But I think that the voices here who speak to their notions of why he did it, and what it was that pushed him over the brink, are worth considering. But the real pull of the book is in the middle, once "Kitchen Confidential" landed and Bourdain became a world traveler. Despite his snarkiness on-camera, Bourdain was much softer and nicer, more loyal and true to his friends, than he could appear from casual viewing. I think ultimately as viewers, we all saw that side eventually emerge because it was who he truly was. And it feels good to know that, according to most of the interviewees for this book, that's who he really was. He was by no means a saint, as many point out: in some ways, travel became an addiction in his later life the way that heroin and other hard drugs had been during his cooking days. But Tony Bourdain could not be reduced to one or two aspects of his personality, he was more complicated and multifaceted than even his swaggering persona would have you believe. And his is a voice that much missed from the world these days. It's fair to say that many other works will emerge and have emerged to document the life of this iconoclast figure in world travel and entertainment. But "Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography" goes a long way towards reminding us that Anthony Bourdain was a very important person to a whole lot of people the world over. And the tragedy of his loss may be how little he realized it at the time of his death.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    When celebrity chef, author and world traveler Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in 2018, fans were shocked. But many of the 91 friends, coworkers and colleagues interviewed in the compelling BOURDAIN: THE DEFINITIVE ORAL BIOGRAPHY share riveting tales of how his life always gravitated toward extreme highs and lows. "He became this great cultural anthropologist whom everyone so loved," said Lydia Tenaglia, Bourdain's TV producer for more than two decades. "But fundamentally he was like a teenage When celebrity chef, author and world traveler Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in 2018, fans were shocked. But many of the 91 friends, coworkers and colleagues interviewed in the compelling BOURDAIN: THE DEFINITIVE ORAL BIOGRAPHY share riveting tales of how his life always gravitated toward extreme highs and lows. "He became this great cultural anthropologist whom everyone so loved," said Lydia Tenaglia, Bourdain's TV producer for more than two decades. "But fundamentally he was like a teenage boy with his emotional development." Laurie Woolever, who was Bourdain's assistant for nearly a decade and co-authored "Appetites: A Cookbook" and "World Travel: An Irreverent Guide" with him, admirably pieces together Bourdain's private and professional life with input from his mother, two ex-wives, daughter, brother, publishers, and the producers, writers and technicians on his TV shows. The main person missing from this tapestry is Asia Argento, the Italian actress Bourdain fell in love with, and for whom he left his wife and began alienating friends. His suicide followed a tabloid frenzy suggesting she was cheating on him. She's not interviewed, but numerous friends and colleagues feel his obsession with her was his downfall. One of the book's most fascinating chapters details the writing and publication of Kitchen Confidential, his frank and profane memoir, which changed his life, brought him fame and magnified his best and worst traits. Although those interviewed are mainly friends and family, this oral biography doesn't shy away from examining Bourdain's loneliness, addictions, abrasive nature and bouts of depression. This is an outstanding and illuminating biography of a complex man plagued with many demons. Anthony Bourdain wrote and lived with an intoxicating brashness that hid his depression and addictions, and this fascinating oral history delves deep to create a true portrait worthy of the man.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Laurie Woolever probably knew Anthony Bourdain better than anyone. She was his longtime assistant and co-authored two books with him. So after his suicide in 2018, she collected the oral remembrances from his friends and colleagues that form this unusual biography. Bourdain’s youth is detailed in the words of his mother, brother, first wife and childhood friends. A voracious reader, he was a gifted writer who made friends easily and entertained them with his humor. Later memories involve those of Laurie Woolever probably knew Anthony Bourdain better than anyone. She was his longtime assistant and co-authored two books with him. So after his suicide in 2018, she collected the oral remembrances from his friends and colleagues that form this unusual biography. Bourdain’s youth is detailed in the words of his mother, brother, first wife and childhood friends. A voracious reader, he was a gifted writer who made friends easily and entertained them with his humor. Later memories involve those of chefs, journalists, network executives and friends. I most enjoyed the recollections of Kamau Bell, host of CNN’s United Shades of America. He had always admired and wanted to meet Bourdain and when he did, was surprised by how friendly and open he was. After several more meetings, Bourdain said they should do something together and Bell answered offhandedly, “I’ve never been to Kenya.” So they went. And they watched Black Panther together. As Kamau Bell describes vividly how special this trip was to him, he also lets us see how it was very much part of Bourdain’s job. I read so many different stories, each telling of a different Anthony Bourdain: friend, co-worker, husband, drug addict, practicer of ju-jitsu, father and more. Everyone seems to see him in a different way but I’m not sure anyone knew the real Anthony Bourdain. This is a moving biography that will make the reader miss his talent more. 5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley, Ecco and Laurie Woolever for this ARC.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A fascinating look at the life of Bourdain by those who (could) know him best. As the book (and subject) ricocheted towards its conclusion, it was difficult to keep my enthusiasm up knowing the lonely ending that was coming. So, hoist up a glass of something good, pair it with good food, blast tunes you like and remember the Anthony Bourdain that you first fell in love with because, like that saying about sausage being made… well, you know where I am going with that.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Devon Pierangeli

    It took me several days to read this book. I felt very sad throughout. It definitely gives you a glimpse of who he was and what enormous contributions that he made to the world. I didn’t realize how much of a leader he was, and how he felt responsible for so many people in his life. I did feel like the book confirms that maybe no one really knew Tony Bourdain. Unfortunately, it appears that he never let people all the way in. It was so sad to read this because in reading his books and watching hi It took me several days to read this book. I felt very sad throughout. It definitely gives you a glimpse of who he was and what enormous contributions that he made to the world. I didn’t realize how much of a leader he was, and how he felt responsible for so many people in his life. I did feel like the book confirms that maybe no one really knew Tony Bourdain. Unfortunately, it appears that he never let people all the way in. It was so sad to read this because in reading his books and watching his groundbreaking shows, it appears that he does show us some of his vulnerability in his writing and interactions. I wish that there had been a bit more about his daughter and more excerpts from her. For she is his biggest legacy. I honestly didn’t know about his toxic relationship at the end. It made the tragedy of his suicide even harder to swallow. Wow, what a great human being, flawed, but essentially good. It was and still is a tragedy that he is no longer in the world. I think that I am going to be depressed for several days. P.S. In another life I want to beat up Asia Argento, but karma’s a bitch and she’ll get hers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Geri

    The good, the bad and the ugly about Anthony Bourdain, as told by more than 50 family, friends, acquaintances and work colleagues. I came away learning so much about this icon that I thought I knew so much about. The book is laugh-out-loud funny and profoundly melancholy. Despite the great stories in the first half of the book, we all know how it ends. I truly enjoyed it, yet it makes me very angry. So many people say they saw Bourdain's downward spiral, yet none of the people closest to him see The good, the bad and the ugly about Anthony Bourdain, as told by more than 50 family, friends, acquaintances and work colleagues. I came away learning so much about this icon that I thought I knew so much about. The book is laugh-out-loud funny and profoundly melancholy. Despite the great stories in the first half of the book, we all know how it ends. I truly enjoyed it, yet it makes me very angry. So many people say they saw Bourdain's downward spiral, yet none of the people closest to him seemed to do anything about it. They all had their excuses, and yes some made a single attempt to help. But surprise, he wasn't listening. So they gave up. No one spoke to a professional to find out what they should do to help. Instead some fretted to themselves, while others did their best to avoid him. What a waste. Helping depressed people isn't easy. So very sad that none of the people closest to him cared enough to go the extra step. It's so easy to say "I tried", when you made one attempt. And now the larger-than-live figure doesn't get to live out his full life, not to mention all the joy he brought to the rest of us. I hope all those who could have taken the extra step, but chose not to, are haunted by their lack of courage for the rest of their lives. If you listen to the book, you should note each of the 50+ people talks in her or his own voice. That was a little hard to get used to. I'm accustomed to listening to most books at 2X normal speed, but a couple people spoke so fast I had to slow down to 1.6X speed. Recommend.

  17. 4 out of 5

    cameron

    My ratings changed throughout this book. It’s really a combination of interviews and major editing and thematic groupings. This could be a five star because the impact of the whole book is no less than a Shakespearean tragedy. I learned a lot about what a near genius he was and what an incredible writer of books and essays and scripts he completed. I so wish he had gone on to just writing. But having a true addictive personality created obsessive behavior his entire life to the very end. I’m so My ratings changed throughout this book. It’s really a combination of interviews and major editing and thematic groupings. This could be a five star because the impact of the whole book is no less than a Shakespearean tragedy. I learned a lot about what a near genius he was and what an incredible writer of books and essays and scripts he completed. I so wish he had gone on to just writing. But having a true addictive personality created obsessive behavior his entire life to the very end. I’m so sad about his demons but amazed at what he accomplished.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    From his childhood to his untimely death, this oral biography of Anthony Bourdain allows readers to view his life through the stories of those closest to him. Although I've never read any of his books, something made me curious to read this insider's view of a life lived and lost too soon. I was surprised to hear of the incredible shyness he hid behind the engaging TV persona. It was also very heartbreaking to read about his life through good times and bad knowing how it ended tragically. I look From his childhood to his untimely death, this oral biography of Anthony Bourdain allows readers to view his life through the stories of those closest to him. Although I've never read any of his books, something made me curious to read this insider's view of a life lived and lost too soon. I was surprised to hear of the incredible shyness he hid behind the engaging TV persona. It was also very heartbreaking to read about his life through good times and bad knowing how it ended tragically. I look forward to reading his work, both fiction and nonfiction, and hearing his insights and perspectives.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    What an affecting way to tell the story of someone deeply loved who has died. This was like an Irish wake in book form. There were so many of those small, dark, true human details spilled in the talking that I simply could not stop reading. But the limitation of the form is that the Greek chorus, ultimately, cannot know everything, so there is a part of me that still feels so unsatisfied. If you love Bourdain, you have to read this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    This homage to Tony Bourdain would be lovely reading for those who knew him, not so much for me and others that did not. Ir consisted of too many disconnected bits by too many unknown people, all saying, pretty much, the same things about TB, things that followers of his already know.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    The author definitely did her research. I haven't read any of the other books by or about Anthony Bourdain. This seems to be a detailed portrayal of his early life, writing Kitchen Confidential, and the No Reservations and Parts Unknown TV shows. Nice to hear all the different points of view from friend and family who were interviewed. The author definitely did her research. I haven't read any of the other books by or about Anthony Bourdain. This seems to be a detailed portrayal of his early life, writing Kitchen Confidential, and the No Reservations and Parts Unknown TV shows. Nice to hear all the different points of view from friend and family who were interviewed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    Anthony Bourdain was a creative genius which usually comes with a dramatic presence, explosive personality, perfectionism and high energy. He fit most of that persona and was able to contribute to a multitude of projects over his lifetime. This book is based on interviews organized by his friend and long time co-writer. Tony is well represented by family, friends and people he worked closely with covering a variety of personal memories and a variety of venues. If you are a fan or wonder what dro Anthony Bourdain was a creative genius which usually comes with a dramatic presence, explosive personality, perfectionism and high energy. He fit most of that persona and was able to contribute to a multitude of projects over his lifetime. This book is based on interviews organized by his friend and long time co-writer. Tony is well represented by family, friends and people he worked closely with covering a variety of personal memories and a variety of venues. If you are a fan or wonder what drove his relentless energy - this is a great choice and companion read to his other books. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    V

    It was so exciting to have the opportunity to read the oral biography of Anthony Bourdain in advance of publication. At the same time, I kept putting off starting the book because I wasn't sure how emotional it would make me. I wouldn't say I was ever starstruck over a celebrity, but I had an enormous amount of respect for Tony's knowledge. I was devastated when the news of his death broke. I cried, was deeply angry and I still am. Like many others, I gained so much knowledge from his TV series. It was so exciting to have the opportunity to read the oral biography of Anthony Bourdain in advance of publication. At the same time, I kept putting off starting the book because I wasn't sure how emotional it would make me. I wouldn't say I was ever starstruck over a celebrity, but I had an enormous amount of respect for Tony's knowledge. I was devastated when the news of his death broke. I cried, was deeply angry and I still am. Like many others, I gained so much knowledge from his TV series. He opened up a world I would have otherwise never seen. He was talented, gifted and irreplaceable. The interviews regarding the production and the behind the scenes glimpse of that process did enlighten me. As a viewer, I had no idea of the complexity and logistical challenges of shooting his television episodes. The beginning of the biography is disjointed quotes from those who worked with him in the early days. There are many people interviewed and quoted and thankfully a cast of characters at the beginning. Despite that, I was often left wondering who are these people remembering him or why they matter in his life. I gleaned very little from the first few chapters and almost quit reading. The pace did improve and the picture of what his life was like became clearer. He had no close friends and his fame isolated him. A quote “You’ll never know the consequences of getting what you want until you get what you want” struck a cord with me and seemed to sum up his notoriety. My favorite chapter was by David Simon, it was full of meaningful recollections. This book is for a reader already familiar with Tony, his books and television series. If I hadn't read some of his books and watched the series for more years than I want to reveal, the biography would not have resonated to me. He opened up a world of food, travel, culture and conversed with both ordinary people and celebrities, unlike anything ever done before. This story focuses on memories, recollections and emotions from the people on the outside of his life peeking in. There is a mix of his co-workers, publishers, family and "friends". What I gained from reading this biography is that no one really knows anyone else, where they are emotionally, psychologically or physically. We should be better friends, better humans. If you haven't read any of his books or watched "Parts Unknown", do that first, then read this book. The biography might be easier to follow if you listen to an audiobook instead of reading  text as I did. His influence on me was positive and life changing. I pray his daughter will someday know how important his contributions were and I hope she will never be famous like him. It's obvious the author put passion and an enormous amount of time into the research and compilation of the biography of her longtime friend. I would like to thank Netgalley, Laurie Woolever, Harper Collins Publications/ Ecco for the advance digital ebook of "Bourdain, the Definitive Oral Biography". These are my thoughts and opinions given voluntarily.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Suzy Davies

    Refreshing, Bitter-Sweet, Memorable. The Recipe: Carefully peel back the layers of a life lived to the full. Remember the twist. The layers are fluid, bitter, and sweet. Always serve chilled. Remember, bartending is a kind of show business. You need an audience. Serve this cocktail in the sunshine. Serve it at sunset. Stirred, not shaken. The Negroni was purported to be Bourdain’s favorite drink; it so reminds me of the deceptive simplicity of the man. What you saw was what you got. Yet, his person Refreshing, Bitter-Sweet, Memorable. The Recipe: Carefully peel back the layers of a life lived to the full. Remember the twist. The layers are fluid, bitter, and sweet. Always serve chilled. Remember, bartending is a kind of show business. You need an audience. Serve this cocktail in the sunshine. Serve it at sunset. Stirred, not shaken. The Negroni was purported to be Bourdain’s favorite drink; it so reminds me of the deceptive simplicity of the man. What you saw was what you got. Yet, his personality was somehow elusive. When you put the man and his life into words, something seems to escape, something not quite captured. Perhaps this is because now, following the tragic circumstances of his death, peers, colleagues, family, friends, and journalists can talk about the man, but not to him, face to face. The Book: Journalist and author, Laurie Woolever has written an authoritative oral biography about Bourdain which generates as many questions as it does answers. In black and white there are many colors. But it is in the voice that we hear all the variations, the nuances. This was something Bourdain himself understood very well. Woolever interviewed 91 people for her book, and inevitably there are contradictions as well as many common threads. But this is the beauty of the thing. The man remains an enigma. We gain insights into his early childhood, his outsider or pirate mentality, his fierce loyalty to team members, and his quiet generosity towards people and causes that fired him up. We get the sense that he was flamboyant and shy, even socially awkward. He could be difficult and prickly. He had charm. We feel his restlessness and dissatisfaction, perhaps with the mundane wife and kids kind of existence he may have had. And here is the paradox. Perhaps, Bourdain wanted this more than anything, but his driven personality, his obsessions, including his drug habits, his sense of living life in the fast lane before his luck changed, meant that although we saw him as “one of us” he was a one-off. People like Bourdain with his talent and charisma are rare. What I understand from Woolever’s pursuit of the truth about this ever-changing man, is that it was a feat to get anywhere close to the man he was. Woolever has done just this. Thanks go to the publisher for the paperback review copy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bob Ryan

    When I heard the news of Bourdain's death I was surprised. What could have made a celebrity known all over the world who had just an interesting job commit suicide? I was never a big fan, only occasionally saw his shows and hadn't read his book, Kitchen Confidential. I was only considering the effect of a wasted life. I knew he had been a heavy drug user and assumed another fentanyl overdose. When I got the opportunity to listen to this book I jumped at it. A most unusual book, except for an audi When I heard the news of Bourdain's death I was surprised. What could have made a celebrity known all over the world who had just an interesting job commit suicide? I was never a big fan, only occasionally saw his shows and hadn't read his book, Kitchen Confidential. I was only considering the effect of a wasted life. I knew he had been a heavy drug user and assumed another fentanyl overdose. When I got the opportunity to listen to this book I jumped at it. A most unusual book, except for an audio clip by the author explaining its structure, consisting of short audio bursts by people who knew Bourdain at various times in his life and his family members. A picture of the man emerges, his strengths and weaknesses, his accomplishments and the continuous stress of being a media star. He became famous in his 40's and realized how tenuous that fame was in today's media market. He continued to reach for more ambitious projects as he got older. He never really settled for what he had. An admirable quality. Since I've finished the book I've started watching his first tv shows, A Cook's Tour, on YouTube. The man had a presence and the nerve to eat things most wouldn't. I think that translated into the rest of his life. The book answered my questions about his death and left me with a curiosity about his life and work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Carlson

    I got this book from the Giveaway mostly out of curiosity. I had watched No Reservations but aside from that I didn't really know much about Anthony Bourdain outside of the show. My sister had read some of his books, but I hadn't yet. Overall I quite liked this book but I did have one main complaint about it: and it involves some of the editing. As it's interviews from people that personally knew him they discuss a myriad of topics and aspects of his life. But the way that the writer edits the int I got this book from the Giveaway mostly out of curiosity. I had watched No Reservations but aside from that I didn't really know much about Anthony Bourdain outside of the show. My sister had read some of his books, but I hadn't yet. Overall I quite liked this book but I did have one main complaint about it: and it involves some of the editing. As it's interviews from people that personally knew him they discuss a myriad of topics and aspects of his life. But the way that the writer edits the interviews together sometimes has the interviewees talking about things that haven't been fully introduced yet so someone who doesn't know what and/or they're talking about already it takes a bit to follow along. Especially involving the book Kitchen Confidential. The author is assuming that the reader has read the book, which I hadn't. It will have someone who is mentioned as being "so and so from Kitchen Confidential" and I could tell that this person or this restaurant was supposed to mean something to me and they didn't. So I learned quite a bit about him which was certainly part of the point of reading the book but if you are a neophyte be advised that there are a couple of parts that may confuse you.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    We don't deserve this book. We don't deserve to know about a person, their history, their death. But such is the reality of celebrity; such is the notion of our microscopic intent in regard to people we think we know, think we deserve to know more intimately. I came to this book because I wanted to know despite my reservations in wanting to know. I felt unresolved, unwhole, incomplete, as I had no license to feel but that I nevertheless did. I had made my peace with not understanding his tragedy b We don't deserve this book. We don't deserve to know about a person, their history, their death. But such is the reality of celebrity; such is the notion of our microscopic intent in regard to people we think we know, think we deserve to know more intimately. I came to this book because I wanted to know despite my reservations in wanting to know. I felt unresolved, unwhole, incomplete, as I had no license to feel but that I nevertheless did. I had made my peace with not understanding his tragedy because it wasn't mine to know. Then this book came out and, contrary to this peace, was immediately drawn to knowing. There's something about wanting that conclusion, that answer...and this book gives it. There is an answer. I'm not sure I feel better about it, but I learned a lot about a man I admired (from at least, afar), and more: I learned a lot about life. Listen, I know how hokey is is to say that, but I learned a lot, from learning about him, about me. And damned if that wasn't how his shows/books/media etc. worked when he was here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Reese

    I listened to the audiobook, and honestly, I think reading it in print might produce a different (and slightly better) experience. This is a tough, poignant, reflective read for anyone who is a fan of Bourdain's work (TV shows and books). The audiobook is well-produced, but there are definite uses of narrators in place of known personalities. I understand why this was done, but it can pull you out of the experience a bit when you listen to parts that are ostensibly narrated by say...Anderson Coo I listened to the audiobook, and honestly, I think reading it in print might produce a different (and slightly better) experience. This is a tough, poignant, reflective read for anyone who is a fan of Bourdain's work (TV shows and books). The audiobook is well-produced, but there are definite uses of narrators in place of known personalities. I understand why this was done, but it can pull you out of the experience a bit when you listen to parts that are ostensibly narrated by say...Anderson Cooper, and you know that the voice you are hearing is decidedly not Anderson Cooper. That's just an example - and no shade to the narrator that handled that part - you just expect to hear the familiar voice...and it's not. In any case, the book itself was interesting and informative, darkly funny in parts, and overall a good look behind the curtain, as it were. It feels like Anthony Bourdain. Not sure a biography can aspire to a more lofty goal than to tell the story of its subject and have it still feel like the person whose story is being told. A remarkable achievement.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill reilly

    I loved Kitchen Confidential and this compilation of interviews is a perfect companion piece to Anthony Bourdain's unforgettable memoir. I also recommend the recently released documentary, Roadrunner, a two hour tribute to Bourdain. Tony is remembered by friends, family and co-workers without filters. The good and the bad aspects of the man are all here. As someone who has never done any mind altering drugs, I will never understand addiction. My fear of loss of control have kept me away from any I loved Kitchen Confidential and this compilation of interviews is a perfect companion piece to Anthony Bourdain's unforgettable memoir. I also recommend the recently released documentary, Roadrunner, a two hour tribute to Bourdain. Tony is remembered by friends, family and co-workers without filters. The good and the bad aspects of the man are all here. As someone who has never done any mind altering drugs, I will never understand addiction. My fear of loss of control have kept me away from any experimentation. Bourdain was a highly addictive person and in the end it destroyed him. Bad choices seemed to haunt him from an early age and his final partner, Asia Argento was a fatal mistake. The most heartbreaking aspects of the book are the interviews with his teenage daughter and second wife. If only he had remained with them instead of an evil woman, he would still be with us. The book is a great read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    This book interested me because it is written by a long-time assistant to Anthony Bourdain and she had access to over 100 people in his life including family, friends, work colleagues, etc. My first impression of Tony Bourdain was reading his first book Kitchen Confidential - and he came off as charismatic and incredibly arrogant. Since then I would watch some of his shows, but would not call myself a fan. I recently watched the documentary about him "Roadrunner," and am really glad I read this This book interested me because it is written by a long-time assistant to Anthony Bourdain and she had access to over 100 people in his life including family, friends, work colleagues, etc. My first impression of Tony Bourdain was reading his first book Kitchen Confidential - and he came off as charismatic and incredibly arrogant. Since then I would watch some of his shows, but would not call myself a fan. I recently watched the documentary about him "Roadrunner," and am really glad I read this book by Woolever. I felt like I got a more fully rounded view of Tony and this book (unlike the other books and films I referenced) humanized him. It was so refreshing to see the impact he had on others and a portrait emerges of a complex person. I highly recommend this book whether you are a fan or not - it is a cautionary tale of celebrity and fame and the loneliness and expectations that go along with them.

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