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Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  2,152 Ratings  ·  275 Reviews
From the best-selling author of Kitchen Confidential comes this true, thrilling tale of pursuit through the kitchens of New York City at the turn of the century.

By the late nineteenth century, it seemed that New York City had put an end to the outbreaks of typhoid fever that had so frequently decimated the city's population. That is until 1904, when the disease broke out i
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published May 4th 2001 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2001)
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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónAtonement by Ian McEwanAmerican Gods by Neil GaimanJohn Adams by David McCulloughThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Books of 2001
56th out of 338 books — 175 voters
Stiff by Mary RoachThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Medicine and Literature
219th out of 1,150 books — 1,478 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 30, 2008 Melissa rated it it was ok
At first, I really enjoyed it. He had chapter titles like "Typhoid Sucks" He was tellilng history with wit, humor, and personality. And then he made, what to me at least, was a glaring error. He started talking about the 1900 Chicago World's Fair. There was no World's Fair in Chicago in 1900. There was one in 1893 and 1933. In 1900 (and I looked it up, because I was pissed), the only World's Fair was in Paris. France, not Texas. And though this is a fairly minor error, it is the kind that's fair ...more
Sarah Fisher
Jul 14, 2010 Sarah Fisher rated it liked it
Shelves: 52inayear
Who knew Anthony Bourdain wrote a history book? This was a highly enjoyable quick read but let's get a few things straight.

Anthony Bourdain is a cook who writes books about cooking, traveling and murder mystery things (haven't read those). So this is quite the departure.

This book is NOT for people looking for an indepth study about typhoid mary. This book is NOT for people looking for a deep analysis and a completely comprehensive storyline.

I knew nothing about typhoid Mary so it was all new to
Jul 29, 2012 Lindsay rated it liked it
This is a quick, interesting read, but it's often distracting how often the author wants to inject himself in the story. I know, I know. It's Anthony Bourdain, so most people are probably looking for his personality, and are reading this because he is the author. However, the shtick gets tiresome, especially in the intro and epilogue. It took 4 pages before he's making fun of feminism's take on this story, and yet he presents a picture of a woman who he is clearly sympathetic towards. It's hard ...more
Jun 02, 2009 Ellen rated it did not like it
As a factual account, this book frustrated me a great deal, because it's really such an overview into the topic. Granted, Bourdain's interest in Mary Mallon stems from his experience as a cook (and he riffs on this topic continually) -- I simply wanted a deeper factual account (and make sure the facts are correct, please -- there are some glaring errors in the book!). The idea of a cook of his caliber writing about Typhoid Mary is brilliant, but I think he could have developed these ideas in the ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Meg rated it really liked it
Color me surprised that Anthony Bourdain (who I've only been tangentially aware of as a chef and food personality) of all people could put together what has to be one of the more illuminating histories on this oft (and incorrectly) maligned woman that I've ever read.

I think it's because Bourdain comes at this not from a "I'm going to write the authoritative work on this" standpoint but from a "wow, I really can sympathize with this woman in a lot of ways, because we have something major in comm
Laura Grable
Sep 17, 2012 Laura Grable rated it it was ok
I first read this book in college. I did not know who Anthony Bourdain was at the time, so I probably didn't fully appreciate his viewpoint as a fellow cook. I remember that I did appreciate the approach of book as a more modern take on non-ficton. As a stressed out college student, I probably also appreciated that the book was small and a quick read.

However, upon second reading, the 150ish pages don't seem to offer a ton of fact regarding Mary Mallon, the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary.
Jan 14, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There seems to be a discrepancy as to what sort of book this is, which would account for the low ratings. This book is not a scholarly work, nor was it meant for academic purposes. You will not find it with heavy citations, nor pages of notes. It is primarily an anecdotal account of an infamous cook, which many no very little about.

This book is for Bourdain fans, and the general layperson, wanting to know a little about a (small) historical figure. I appreciated the way Bourdain wove historical
Apr 28, 2015 Rebecca rated it liked it
This had some interesting historical information in it on cooks in general and 1800s Irish women in particular, but Bourdain's approach was definitely biased. He seemed to start with the idea that Mary, as a cook, was innocent and every public health official she came in contact with was evil and incompetent at their job.

I had to stop 50% of the way through the book -- I just couldn't trust anything I was reading.
Bourdain looks at the life of the Irish woman who came to be known as Typhoid Mary due to her being a carrier of the disease and infecting the people she worked for. It was interesting up to a certain point but there is very little known about the woman. As a biography this was only really good for a brief overview of Mary and the times she lived in.
Mar 13, 2016 Barb rated it it was ok
This book was interesting but too documentary for me. Also, to much information about the era
As apparently Mary's story was to boring by itself
Molly Mccarty
Historical inaccuracies aside, as the lack of a 1900 Chicago's World Fair, mentioned by an earlier reviewer, this was a fun and factual read. A little bit of a book, it's starting premise is that Typhoid Mary was a cook. A good one in the better homes of an earlier New York City. As a cook, a good one, you have responsiblities to your crew, your employers, and the entire household. You do not shirk your duty. You work sick.
It appears that Mary Mallon, among her many aliases, was never really sic
M Rothenbuhler
Mar 05, 2016 M Rothenbuhler rated it it was ok
About halfway through this book, I flipped back to see if the author was male or female. I suspicious I was reading a book by a young lady recently graduated from Vassar with a degree in Feminist Womyn's Studies. I was surprised to see the author is male.


Typhoid Mary was just a cultural reference for me until I read this. I found the history and subject matter interesting. I have been educated. That's good.

However, there was definitely an extreme feminist theology imposed on what was not
Jul 24, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
Fascinating! A quick well written, in-depth, yet easily digestable narrative about Mary Maddon, a cook in early 1900's NYC who was a carrier of Typhoid Fever. She was accused, confined, tested and studied and she fought back hard. Bourdain, much like his travel stories tells his story of Mary in a very compelling way. We grow to respect her and even admire her spunk and her prowess in the kitchen, and as a survivor. Most of this is based on historical document, and what Broudain brings to this i ...more
Laurie Carlson
This was a book I picked up about a month or so ago just to read for myself out of curiosity. It was very enlightening. I sure had shock value from this book! It sure makes you NOT want to go out to eat in ANY restaurant or at least a restaurant that did not serve cooked food, for that matter! I think I'll pass, or at least I will for a little while!
I happened to have grandparents who were 'germophones'. They really would lovingly joke around and call me 'Typhoid Mary' if I had a cold or sounded
Evanston Public  Library
Anthony Bourdain, considered by some to be the bad boy of novelle cuisine, is best known for his eye-opening exposé of the restaurant business, Kitchen Confidential.That book that caused many people to think long and hard before they stepped foot in a restaurant again. Bourdain has always had food safety on his mind, or so it appears. In this slim biography of Mary Mallon, he does a pretty thorough job of telling us as much as is known about this figure from the turn of the 19th century. It's no ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Bex rated it it was ok
meh. It's a quick read and gives the basics of what happened to Typhoid Mary (which can be gotten elsewhere) plus some interesting tidbits from documents written by the players. But as a work of nonfiction it annoyed me a great deal. Firstly, there are no citations in the book. There's a bibliography at the end, but Bourdain is using direct quotes with no concrete reference back to where they came from. Secondly, the book is full of a lot of speculation about what Mary must have done and felt. I ...more
Nicholas Aune
Jan 20, 2016 Nicholas Aune rated it it was ok
Besides his food writing and crime novels, Bourdain also wrote a history of Typhoid Mary told from a cook's perspective. The book is pretty funny and offers a decent overview of turn of the century food trends, but lands in the dangerous end of popular history. The book is FULL of factual inaccuracies, false logic, outrageous assumptions and pretty strange bias. All of this doesn't matter though since the main focus of the book seems to be on Bourdain ' s blunt Gonzo narrative. Yet it's hard to ...more
Sep 15, 2015 Linda rated it it was ok
I've never read anything by Anthony Bourdain, and I probably won't again. This book is titled Typhoid Mary, and some of her story is contained in this book, but at least half of it is a rant against women of the 1900s and ranting about the life of being a cook. This book makes me never want to eat in a restaurant if this is how the cooks really feel.
His opinions ruined the book for me, he was soft on Mary and his imagined feelings she might of had were plausible. But he showed such contempt for
Mar 09, 2016 Chazzi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-era
The title intrigued me and I was surprised to see Anthony Dourdain as the author. I only know of him from cooking shows.

I knew of Typhoid Mary, but not much about her story. Bourdain writes from the cook's point of view, and gives a good picture of life in the late 1800s - early 1900s. It was not easy, no matter how you sliced it. His research and used of quotes from documents of the time help illustrate the era. Her treatment and the 'rights' given her were terrible.

Bourdain's style is easy to
Oct 25, 2015 Gina rated it liked it
This book was a "suggested read" from my library. No, it is not a scholarly journal and I am glad it wasn't. It was a nice, quick read written from the perspective of someone who has "walked a mile in those shoes." I am sure, just as in any other job, there positives and negatives.

I feel Anthony Bourdain was just trying to help us understand what life was like in the early 1900's. Maybe it was written as a reminder that things are not really that different in 2015 from 1915? My takeaway is this
Aug 20, 2016 Wendi rated it really liked it
Story related from the point of view of a cook and a person of the times trying to make a living. Interesting.
Brittany Z
Sep 07, 2015 Brittany Z rated it liked it
I don't know a ton about Typhoid Mary so this gave a good basic overview. I got the ebook from the library after they had her character on The Knick tv show and it got me interested. I thought the author did well at explaining the life of a cook (as he would know) and discussing what being a cook in the early 1900s for a female Irish immigrant might have been like. Its not a long read and it doesn't seem like he put a ton of work and time into the book. I'm not too sure how accurate some of the ...more
Adam Dunn
Oct 01, 2014 Adam Dunn rated it liked it
There is little known now about Mary Mallon and hardly enough for a book, which is one of the reasons no real book has been written on her. The print version of the book is 160 pages and I imagine large type, the Kindle version is only 120 or so and these feel padded. Particularly around the 49% mark the author goes into a lengthy explanation of what may have made Mary go back to work after escaping confinement and while knowing she was infectious. Lengthy. Too Lengthy.
This is really inexcusable
I wanted to check out this book on Typhoid Mary after I saw it is written by none other than the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain. I forgot he was the author once I started reading it, and just enjoyed it for itself on the subject. It seemed to have more background and detail than anything else I'd read about Mary Marron previously.

Thanks to the eagle-eyed reviewers who caught that he got the date of the World's Fair wrong in it. Makes one wonder what other errors of fact there may be, hmmm.
Jul 13, 2014 Alison rated it really liked it
Being between books from the library, and being intrigued by this book offered by Nook, I began reading and found it quite fascinating to learn of the story of Typhoid Mary. Perhaps more than the story itself, was a behind the scene peek at cooks and restaurants. Unfortunately, the uncovering of such truths of what some cooks might do in the kitchen, leaves me wondering if I can eat out ever again. Typhoid Mary was a cook and left in her wake a trail of people who became sick. Sanitary working c ...more
3.5 stars

Hearing Anthony Bourdain’s voice narrating this story in my head is probably a good indication that I’ve seen too many episodes of No Reservations, Parts Unknown and Mind of a Chef, but it added a different layer to my reading experience that I did not expect, yet fully enjoyed.

I will admit to being surprised by his stance in this book. If you go in with the idea that Tony’s stance will be one of mild outrage, as one professional chef detailing the dastardly deeds of another, dirty and
Hashim Qureshi
Jun 19, 2014 Hashim Qureshi rated it it was ok
I read Typhoid Mary solely because of Anthony Bourdain. I am a huge fan of his other works, Kitchen Confidential, A Cook's Tour, etc. To expect Typhoid Mary to live up to those books is foolish considering it is a relatively minor project but I was still a little let down. Bourdain's writing is as sharp as ever but this book really suffers when it starts moving away from food/cooking as its major theme. The sections of the book, mainly the introduction and epilogue are easily the best writing he ...more
Christine Rebbert
Jan 28, 2015 Christine Rebbert rated it really liked it
Who better than a cook to write a book about a cook? We've all heard of Typhoid Mary, but until this book, I had no idea of who the real person and story was behind the nickname. Mary Mallon was a cook in the homes of the wealthy in early 1900's New York City. Although she herself was never sickened, she was a carrier of the typhoid germ, unfortunately at a time when there was not yet a palliative or cure for the disease. When the "jig was up" as a result of a super-sleuth NYC health officer, Ma ...more
Terri Lynn
Jul 27, 2014 Terri Lynn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I will admit I do not like Anthony Bourdain on television. He seems rude, arrogant, and full of himself. Naturally, I gave pause to the idea of reading something he wrote but was so tempted by the subject matter, I gave in and am glad I did.

Bourdain takes a rather empathetic approach to the story of Mary Mallon at many points though other times calls her a monster. She was no monster. She grew up dirt poor in Ireland, almost died of starvation, and came to the USA where she settled in New York
Rob Charpentier
From what I can gather, Anthony Bourdain is a rock star in the cooking world. Maybe not in the figurative sense, where he reigns supreme over all others, for I just wouldn’t know anything about that. It is more in the attitude that the man possesses that smacks of rock star and so is something more in the vein of a literal definition here. He walks the talk, as they say.

From what I’ve seen of his television show, “No Reservations,” he comes across as exceedingly casual and aloof, even when showi
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Anthony Bourdain is the author of the novels Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo, in addition to the megabestsellers Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour.
His work has appeared in the New York Times and the New Yorker, and he is a contributing authority for Food Arts magazine. He is the host of the popular Emmy and Peabody Award winning television show Parts Unknown.
More about Anthony Bourdain...

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