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Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  2,235 Ratings  ·  285 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
Kindle Edition, 144 pages
Published (first published 2001)
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Mar 30, 2008 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 13, 2010 Sarah Fisher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 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 know 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 historica
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
May 14, 2009 Ellen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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 05, 2016 Barb rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 24, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nicholas Aune
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
Oct 22, 2015 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 28, 2013 Chazzi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 15, 2015 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2014 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Brittany Z
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
Jun 30, 2014 Valerie rated it liked it
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.
Jane Mccrimmon
This was a very fast read that the reads like a university essay. The premise is interesting, from the perspective of a cook in charge. There is a great deal of detail of the food that Mary cooks. One will like the information on the islands of New York. But there isn't a lot of detail about wealthy New York. I would not recommend this book as a source of reliable information.
Jul 06, 2015 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting read. I love Anthony Bourdain and his narration on his own shows, loved reading Kitchen Confidential. He sheds such a neutral, if not sympathetic light on a woman who was clearly mistreated and misunderstood in a world and time that was hard enough on its own. Slow in parts, but overall a good read.
Apr 09, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-books
I can't say I really knew anything about Typhoid Mary going into this, so the complaint other reviewers have about this being light on fact doesn't really resonate with me. This is a much less Bourdain style of a book than Bourdain's usual works. I did enjoy how much he seemed to LIKE Mary, despite her flaws. Fun, fast read.
Jul 11, 2016 Fabio rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Da cuoco ho apprezzato l'introduzione, la divagazione sul femminismo ed il ruolo delle donne all'inizio del 900 negli Stati Uniti, non mi ha appassionato più di tanto...sono comunque curioso di leggere il suo best seller
Not just a good investigation into the maligned life of Mary Malone but also a well written book on the life of the turn-of-century domestic cook. Bourdain proves himself to be a very good historical writer and took to this subject from the standpoint of a cook.
Kathleen Kosiec
Sympathetic biography of the chef who sickened many in the early 20th century because she was a carrier of typhoid. Bourdain does a great job of conveying why Mary would continue to cook and humanizes the woman know by the sensational moniker "Typhoid Mary" to the public.
annette lofft
Aug 30, 2015 annette lofft rated it it was amazing
A different look at Mary

Very entertaining read. Typical Bourdain style. Informative and touching history of the time and Mary Mallon's life and death from the perspective of a fellow cook.
Maria Victoria Sanchez
May 29, 2016 Maria Victoria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Miguel A. Hernandez
It was good but i didn't love it, since is a true history about someone else, Bourdain has a hard time trying not to talk about himself and the writing is less fluid and less funny than his usual. Since im not from New York but love urban stories i found this book very interesting. ...more
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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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