Travel books fall into two camps. There are the practical, stuff-it-in-your-tote books you consult for subway maps or useful food phrases. And there are the immersive, illuminating books that make for satisfying reading, even if you have no plans to visit Lima or Lagos. Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever’s World Travel: An Irreverent Guide is decidedly the latter.
Bourdain and his longtime assistant Woolever began sketching the structure for this book in 2017; Bourdain died unexpectedly in June 2018. Woolever and Bourdain’s estate decided to continue with the book, and the guide went on sale April 20.
On a practical level, World Travel would leave much to be desired if it was a traveler’s only resource. The book recommends just five eateries in all of Mexico City; the entirety of Cuba is addressed in six and a half pages; there is only one recommended hotel listed for most destinations. But in the era of blogs and TripAdvisor and AirBnb Experiences, this book won’t be any traveler’s only resource.
And it’s not intended to be. Rather, World Travel is a global romp as seen through the singular eyes—and palate—of Anthony Bourdain. Woolever has painstakingly combed his musings, memories, and must-eat meals for a gritty, glittering world tour as only Bourdain could present. How to sweet-talk your way to an illicit beer from a halal food stall in Sri Lanka would perhaps not be required information in other guide books, but it certainly belongs in Bourdain’s. In the introduction, a 2012 Bourdain quote sets expectations: “It was never my intention to provide audiences with ‘everything’ they needed to know about a place—or even a balanced or comprehensive overview. I am a storyteller. I go places, I come back. I tell you how the places made me feel.”
Any fan of Bourdain’s will finish the book sharing his feelings about these places. Ahead, writer and editor Laurie Woolever—who also coauthored Bourdain’s 2016 cookbook, Appetites—shares what she intends this book to be, how it can be used, and what it illuminates about Bourdain’s philosophy of food.
(This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.)