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Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,798 ratings  ·  362 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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3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,798 ratings  ·  362 reviews

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Mar 30, 2008 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
Dee Arr
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Without a doubt, one can find other books on the subject of Typhoid Mary, but would be hard-pressed to find one examining Mary Mallon from the same angle chosen by author Anthony Bourdain. Early in the book, Mr. Bourdain tells us he has chosen to approach this subject differently, and explains his intentions to tell the story of “…a proud cook…who at the outset, at least, found herself utterly screwed by forces she neither understood nor had the ability to control.” To that end, he has been succ ...more
Sarah Fisher
Jul 13, 2010 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
Valerity (Val)
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.
Laura Grable
Sep 16, 2012 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 11, 2016 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
Jul 28, 2012 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
May 14, 2009 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
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
I am not a foodie, and this is my first Anthony Bourdain read, but it won’t be my last. I loved this non-fiction read, he infuses his knowledge of cooking and the culture of the kitchen into this history, and the fusion of the two makes for a witty insider viewpoint into this historical tragedy.

*I’d recommend this to fans of Sarah Vowell’s histories.
Jan 05, 2015 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
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not exactly sure how I felt about the tone with this, but it was interesting. If we're to believe our author all cooks are arrogant and prideful, which I don't believe. I also don't particularly like the whole 'she infected people with typhoid but look, she was a cook so here is why that's okay...' tone it had. I do feel she was treated badly but she seems to have been very aware of what was happening and didn't much care. It was a messy situation that was handled poorly on all sides.
The bo
Apr 28, 2015 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.
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
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
This quick read doesn’t reach the heights of some of Bourdain’s other work, but he does a commendable job handling a story that often wades into the waters of conjecture out of necessity. While not forgiving Mallon for continuing to cook for the public after it was quite clear that doing so put others at risk, the book shines when empathizing with its titular subject as a hardworking culinary pro on the fringes of society simply trying to get from one day to the next. And that’s the type of food ...more
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
Sep 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I started reading by knowing nothing about Typhoid Mary. I came away not knowing much more but having enjoyed the book, none the less.
There's some interesting perspective on social times and customs and beliefs, a little bit about Mary Mallon (I gather there isn't much public information known about Mary) and some interesting speculations thrown in as well.
The author seems to have a soft spot for Mary since they are both professional cooks. He feels for her hardships, whether true or speculated,
Jul 28, 2013 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
Jun 10, 2014 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
Suzanne Fournier
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
An interesting but not particularly insightful recounting of woman called Typhoid Mary. The author begins by saying that she wasn't as bad as all that and really only killed a few people. Then describes in fairly good detail the original suspicions and capture of Mary Mallon. Then the story kind of trails off and we never get any more facts and figures of how many people she may have harmed in the end.
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Katherine Coble
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
This is an ok popular history. But it's a POPULAR history. So, not a lot of historic detail and more than a fair bit of failure to fact check. 1900 World's Fair?? Way to just make up stuff, Bourdain!
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it, history
Well written and researched, cogent story of Mary Mallen, better known as Typhoid Mary.
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-read
Not a great book, but not bad. Very short, not much depth, but a decent overview of her life. Too much of Bourdain's life and experiences as a cook interspersed.
Mar 05, 2016 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
Everyone has heard of Typhoid Mary, even though who aren't aware that she was an actual person. I found this account of her life to be very interesting.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I had a huge crush on Mr. Bourdain and his food show so I got the book and his other books, Anthony did a good job
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i really dug this perspective on typhoid mary & also i love anthony bourdain. win/win.
Shayna Ross
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked up this book because it was written by Anthony Bourdain and it was also a relatively short read. Overall, it was not a bad book and you can certainly hear Bourdain's voice in the writing, taking you from place to place to describe Mary's plight in New York. However, you get a strong gust of his bias and how much he cares for Mary Mallon as a fellow cook. Much of this book is speculation on Bourdain's part, tied with research he came across during the writing - this is both due to the fa ...more
Kiwi Carlisle
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bourdain subtitled this book “an urban historical”, which is a pretty good way to describe it. It’s not quite a novel, not quite a serious historical biography, either.
This is a fairly sympathetic treatment of the problem of Mary Mallon, the woman who may or may not have been responsible for the deaths of 3 people and the serious infection of 48 more with typhoid.
Only 51, you say? If you were brought up on her legend, as I was, you are used to thinking of Typhoid Mary as having been a much mor
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Anthony Bourdain was the author of the novels Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo, in addition to the mega-bestsellers Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour.

His work has appeared in The New York Times and The New Yorker, and he was a contributing authority for Food Arts magazine. He was the host of the popular Emmy and Peabody Award winning television show Parts Unknown.
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