On Anthony Bourdain’s 65th birthday, we’re certain that he’s finishing the dregs of some innumerable Negroni in the sky. His plate is never empty and he is never over-full. He’s likely visiting some alternate Buenos Aires, Mumbai, or Los Angeles. All month, his name echoing across the world: his face on television screens, his recipes in warm kitchens, his words on our shelves and in our memories.
Anthony Bourdain, Los Angeles, and Us
In fact, it was nearly two years ago that the A Good Used Book team expanded - to one employee! - and went out to dinner at a special little place near Jenny and Chris’ apartment in Koreatown. A place that Los Angeles artist David Choe treated Anthony Bourdain to in 2013; a place that Bourdain described as… “Standing tall and prominent among the many Asian and Central American restaurants in the community, one place holds an unexpectedly cherished position in the collective memories of many second generation Korean Americans.” That place being Sizzler.
Now, whether we went in for the steak or the meatball-tacos that night, Bourdain’s meal was a reference point for our own - as his writings continue to be. A chef, a traveller, an author, and an American icon, it’s true that his passing left holes in many places... but perhaps least of all in literature. From his first novel to his memoirs to his posthumously published recommendations, he left his readers with all the words they could hope to have. It is in these books, as well as these places, that a legend lives on.
Most famous for his non-fiction, it’s true that Anthony Bourdain’s first published work was actually a novel… and one that only he could write. Part thriller, part mystery, and entirely Bourdain: Bone in the Throat comes complete with both stunning descriptions of food and a head chef who’s a heroin addict.
Aptly described by Eater as Bourdain’s “breakout superstar kitchen renegade memoir,” this was the book that landed the chef on shelves around the country. Inspired by George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and exhausted by the toxic and consuming underbelly of the restaurant industry, he used for the first time the thing that would make him more famous than his food - his voice.
After the continued success of his travel writing, Bourdain finally returned to the memoir with Medium Raw. Published 10 years and countless countries later, this book shows a softer chef than Kitchen Confidential. Here he writes of his contemporaries, of designer hamburgers and “cereal milk,” and of his own mortality.
Consider this book Bourdain beyond the grave. Completed after his death by his longtime assistant Laurie Woolever, World Travel collects many of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite haunts: his repeat restaurants, secret watering holes, and most idiosyncratic hideouts. This long-awaited travel guide contains both the best place to eat meat in Buenos Aires and the finest ferris wheel in Vienna, the way to Bhutan's "Divine Madman" and to Jumbo's Clown Room in Los Angeles.
Sarah J. Bofenkamp is a reader, writer, and librarian living in Palouse, Washington.