Fitting Tributes for Anthony Bourdain | Biography Reviews

Interested in biographies of Anthony Bourdain? Producer and director Tom Vitale writes a candid account of his longtime friend. Laurie Woolever, Bourdain's longtime assistant, offers a heartfelt retrospective.

In the Weeds by Tom VitaleredstarVitale, Tom. In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain. Hachette. Oct. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780306924095. $30. BIOG
Vitale (longtime director and producer for Anthony Bourdain's television shows, including No Reservations and Parts Unknown) revisits the misadventures of filming a travel show and grapples with Bourdain's 2018 death. He uses stories of over 80 trips to film across the globe (in Libya, Iran, Vietnam, Borneo, Congo) as a backdrop to examine his professional and personal relationship with Bourdain. Vitale is an engaging and self-aware storyteller, who writes and structures this memoir in the style of the immersive documentary television he’s known for. The timeline jumps back and forth between distinct memories of Bourdain and Vitale's attempts to process his emotions in the present. In a fitting nod to the ethos of No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and Bourdain himself, Vitale's book is ultimately about the people who shared in these experiences. Readers interested in memoirs that fuse grief and adventure may also enjoy Alexandra Fuller's Travel Light, Move Fast. VERDICT This adventurous and candid account is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Bourdain's work and an honest story about persisting in the wake of loss. It will resonate with many readers as a travel and entertainment memoir, exploration of grief, and tribute to a beloved figure.—Kate Bellody, SUNY New Paltz

Bourdain: The Definitive Oral BiographWoolever, Laurie. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. Ecco. Oct. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9780062909107. $28.99. BIOG
After decades of Anthony Bourdain candidly sharing his own story, his longtime assistant Woolever (co-author, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide) has written an unfiltered study of Bourdain's life, as seen by the people closest to him (among them his producer Zamir Gotta and CNN colleague Anderson Cooper). The narrative addresses Bourdain's life from childhood on: his kitchen career as a line cook and eventually executive chef; nominal writing success with early novels; breakthrough memoir Kitchen Confidential; and early awkwardness on camera, plus the cult success of No Reservations and widespread fame of Parts Unknown. Woolever compiles the perspectives of Bourdain's friends and family about the way these professional experiences impacted him, including during his tumultuous final year. Life was rarely rosy; Bourdain could be harsh, jaded, and disengaged when things didn't go his way. But those moments coexisted with Bourdain's global compassion and incredible personal selflessness (evinced by his championing Jason Rezaia'’s case and supporting writers via his book imprint). Woolever offers good insight about these aspects of Bourdain and his world. VERDICT Any Anthony Bourdain fan, of which there are many, will enjoy this thoughtful tribute to an impactful cultural figure.—Zebulin Evelhoch, Deschutes P.L., OR

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