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10 Books to Read if You Miss Anthony Bourdain’s Writing as Much as We Do

While nothing can quite fill the Bourdain-sized hole on our bookshelves, these novels come close.

The late Anthony Bourdain’s words inspired a generation of food and travel lovers to see the world, guided by his unique voice, New York-branded cynicism, and knack for calling out phonies and facades anywhere he went. His dry humor almost always punched up as he poked fun at himself and anyone in positions of power, while moments of earnestness floated in a sea of sarcasm, imbuing his prose with extra gravity. The truth is, no one can quite step into Anthony Bourdain’s shoes or fill the Bourdain-shaped hole left on our bookshelves. While we may have his previous texts—like A Cook’s Tour and Kitchen Confidentialto carry his words across generations, we can also turn to these similar books and (in the case of Graham Greene) authors who inspired Bourdain’s writing.

INSIDER TIPPublished posthumously, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide is a great read that compiles Bourdain’s travel notes and supplements them with essays from friends and colleagues.


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'The Quiet American' by Graham Greene

As any true Bourdain fan knows, he loved Vietnam. In fact, it is Vietnam that is credited with opening up Bourdain to travel in the first place. From its cuisine to its history, Bourdain idolized Vietnam in a way that often shone through in his writing. Because of this, few other books come up in Bourdain’s writing as often as this war novel by Graham Greene. In fact, The Quiet American could be credited with igniting Bourdain’s fascination with Vietnamese culture and history. The Quiet American looks at the bungling of Americans interfering abroad while showcasing Greene’s disdain for naïve idealism underlying the action and travel.

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'Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex, and Nigerian Taste Buds' by Yemisi Aribisala

This collection of beautifully told stories about the author’s personal experience with Nigerian food shares its vivid imagery and sharp observations on everyday foods with Bourdain’s work. But Aribisala sets herself apart in the way she communicates her love for Nigerian cuisine through essays filled with deep knowledge, precise details, and bold humor.

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'Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir' by Kwame Onwuachi

When Anthony Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential, it shook up the restaurant industry. Arguably, Bourdain’s book was the first to showcase restaurant culture in such a jaw-dropping and candid way, seemingly turning chefs into revered rebels overnight. From warnings against when to order fish to the renegade culture of kitchen staff, Bourdain didn’t hold back, and neither does Chef Kwame Onwuachi in this memoir. Onwuachi brings back the early Kitchen Confidential style of Bourdain’s writing, giving readers a sobering glimpse of the real-life horrors that chefs subject their cooks to. But while Bourdain wrote from the perspective of a seasoned vet, Onwuachi takes the reader on his journey from wide-eyed rookie to the top of the fast-paced and often racist world of fine-dining kitchens.

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'Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China' by Fuchsia Dunlop

To read Bourdain’s writing about food and travel is to witness a love letter to the simple pleasures in life like a cold beer on a warm beach. In this book, Fuchsia Dunlop captures that same love and curiosity about food that Bourdain once did. But rather than travel the world to satisfy her hunger for culinary knowledge, Dunlop chronicles her journey from an open-minded university student slurping noodles on the street to one of the foremost English experts on Chinese cuisine. To get there, she delves into uncharted territory as the only Westerner and only woman in her class at Sichuan’s prestigious cooking academy.

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'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream' by Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson is credited with creating “gonzo journalism,” a style of journalism where the author reports on and experiences a story in tandem from a first-person POV. When looking at Bourdain’s writing, it’s clear he drew inspiration from the likes of Thompson and his gonzo style of writing. Bourdain’s words place him in the story, showing us every country, conversation, and dish through his eyes. This iconic book is a great example of gonzo journalism and the sort of “in your face” writing we so sorely miss from Bourdain.

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'Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table' by Boris Fishman

One of the enduring messages of Bourdain’s oeuvre is that everything is tied to food: personality, migration, love, and memories. Fishman’s memoir starts at the root of his inherited hunger with his grandparents and follows his family as they cook and eat through the Soviet era and onto America. It explores the reality of navigating life across cultures, aging parents, and nostalgic cravings, lightened with hints of self-deprecating Soviet-Jewish humor.

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'Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India' by Madhur Jaffrey

In this book, this queen of Indian cooking writes about the epic feasts of freshly hunted wild game and the simple pleasures of fruit pulled straight from the expansive garden during her luxurious childhood in India. Though sometimes less gritty than most of the lives Bourdain gravitated toward, the prose is equally devoted to and reverent of food and those who cook it.

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'Days of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War' by Annia Ciezadlo

In a memorable episode of No Reservations, Bourdain and his crew flee Beirut as it descends into war. It was a pivotal episode that arguably laid the foundation for the sort of reporting Bourdain would go on to do in CNN’s Parts Unknown, where he’d marry politics and culture with the local cuisine. But when war broke out during the filming of the Beirut episode, plenty of people stuck around, including American journalist Ciezadlo. This memoir covers her time in Baghdad and Beirut in the early 2000s, just as the war began in both cities, but, like Bourdain, she makes the stories come alive in her descriptions of everyday life and, particularly, the food.

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'I Hear She’s a Real Bitch' by Jen Agg

As a strong woman in a still extremely misogynistic industry, restaurateur Jenn Agg wittily bites back at everything and everyone that has tried to push her down over the years, including rude customers and kitchen culture in general. In this story of life in the Canadian food scene, Agg’s cynical and dubious attitude mirrors Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, but from a woman’s perspective. It comes as no surprise then that Bourdain once recommended this book himself, saying, “Whatever Jen Agg says is worth listening to.”

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'In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain' by Tom Vitale

For many, Anthony Bourdain had the dream job of traveling the globe for work. But, to be one of the crew filming Bourdain on his adventures was a different experience, as proven by Tom Vitale. In this book, Vitale shares candid stories of grief and clear-eyed observations on what drives people (and specifically, what drove Bourdain) to travel. Vitale’s memoir reflects on the years he spent working with Bourdain, sharing a raw and honest behind-the-scenes look. Bourdain’s influence on the first-time writer is obvious, with that classic Bourdain cadence coming through the text often, especially as Vitale digs into old shows, emails, and shared experiences that help bring his former boss to life.