Note: I received a free digital copy of this book from the author. All opinions are my own.
Everyone knows how to live the good life in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany. Now, Matthew Amster-Burton makes you fall in love with Tokyo. Experience this exciting and misunderstood city through the eyes of three Americans vacationing in a tiny Tokyo apartment. Follow 8-year-old Iris on a solo errand to the world’s greatest supermarket, picnic on the bullet train, and eat a staggering array of great, inexpensive foods, from eel to udon. A humorous travel memoir in the tradition of Peter Mayle and Bill Bryson, Pretty Good Number One is the next best thing to a ticket to Tokyo. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
I’ve never before had the urge to use that book blurb cliche of describing something as a “love letter,” but there’s no way around it: Pretty Good Number One is a love letter to Japan. I didn’t have much of a special interest in Japan before, but after reading this book, which details the incredible foods and experiences Matthew and his family enjoyed there, I definitely want to go.
Matthew Amster-Burton (co-host of the Spilled Milk Podcast, for which I’ve expressed my love several times before) takes his family on a month-long vacation to Tokyo, and Pretty Good Number One chronicles their exploits while in Japan. Of course, the book focuses mostly on the foods they ate, from the spectacular to the ridiculous. If the only Japanese food you know is sushi, this book will open up a whole new world to you. Matthew describes the foods he and his family try–and the adventures they have along the way–in a way that is often hilarious and almost always mouthwatering (there were only a few foods described that I think I would have a hard time choking down).
In addition to the book itself, there’s an epilogue about Matthew’s more recent trip back to Tokyo which you can read online, complete with photos of the trip. I’m totally in favor of this. It’s like illustrations for adults.
Although I’ve never been to Japan, this book reminded me of my love for my own country crush, Hungary. I feel a deep connection to Budapest, the language and the people and (of course) the food, and it’s clear that Matthew feels the same connection with Tokyo. Whether or not you know anything at all about Japan, this book will make you fall in love with the country. Definitely worth a read if you’re interested in travel, food, humor, or (like me) all three.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good