Books about the Camino de Santiago

This is a list of books about the Camino. It's by no means exhaustive but it contains many books which are popular with pilgrims and a few books I've personally enjoyed down the years.

In English

The Great Westward Walk / El Gran Caminante, Antxon (Bolitx) González Gabarain

“The Great Westward Walk” is the long-awaited English translation of “El Gran Caminante,” the best-selling contemporary Spanish narrative of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The tale is told by “Bolitx,” a Basque pilgrim who walked in 2008 from his hometown on the Cantabrian Sea along a disused pilgrim trail, joining “the Mighty Camino Frances” in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Along the Way to Santiago he spins colorful tales of family life in a Basque village: ghost trains, kindly nuns, and card-shark grannies; as well as his daily dealings with pilgrims: the pot-smokers, saints, liars, and scholars who share his journey. Peppered with camino history never before seen in English; it’s an unforgettable view into the character of a witty soul both Spaniard and Basque. “The Great Westward Walk” was this young author’s great and final work: he finished the written journey three days before ALS ended his life at age 41.

Call Of The Camino, Robert Mullen

The experiences of an ordinary man on the pilgrim’s path are charted in this narrative that walks along the Camino Francés to the shrine of Saint James at Santiago de Compostela and then on to Finisterre, the westernmost point of Spain. The history of the Camino is recounted, as well as several of the myths, legends, and miracle stories that have become attached--and given special meaning--to this itinerary. Emphasizing that personal myths are an essential part of this lore, this chronicle also includes stories from the confraternity of the pilgrims, people from all corners of the world who visit this walk for a great diversity of reasons, but all of whom leave having experienced the same miracle--that this pilgrimage will play a defining role in their lives.

To the Field of Stars, Kevin Codd

“I am about to share here a story about stars that dance. . . . If the very thought of seeing stars dance piques your curiosity at some deep level of your soul, then pay attention to what follows, for the walk to the Field of Stars, to Santiago de Compostela, is a journey that has the power to change lives forever.”

-- from the introduction

“Pilgrimage” is a strange notion to our modern, practical minds. How many of us have walked to a distant holy place in order to draw nearer to God? Yet the pilgrimage experience is growing these days in various parts of the world.

Seeking to take stock of his life, Kevin Codd set out in July 2003 on a pilgrimage that would profoundly change his life. To the Field of Stars tells the fascinating story of his unusual spiritual and physical journey on foot across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, the traditional burial place of the apostle James the Greater. Each brief chapter chronicling Codd's thirty-five-day trek is dedicated to one or two days on the road. Codd shares tales of other pilgrims, his own changes of perspective, and his challenges and triumphs along the way -- all told with a disarming candor.

Seen through the eyes of a Catholic priest who honors the religious worldview that originally gave rise to these medieval odysseys, “pilgrimage” comes to life and takes on new meaning in these pages.

What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim, Jane Christmas

To celebrate her 50th birthday and face the challenges of mid-life, Jane Christmas joins 14 women to hike the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Despite a psychic's warning of catfights, death, and a sexy, fair-haired man, Christmas soldiers on. After a week of squabbles, the group splinters and the real adventure begins. In vivid, witty style, she recounts her battles with loneliness, hallucinations of being joined by Steve Martin, as well as picturesque villages and even the fair-haired man. What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim is one trip neither the author nor the reader will forget.

The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, David M Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson

The road across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest was one of the three major Christian pilgrimage routes during the Middle Ages, leading pilgrims to the resting place of the Apostle St. James. Today, the system of trails and roads that made up the old pilgrimage route is the most popular long-distance trail in Europe, winding from the heights of the Pyrenees to the gently rolling fields and woods of Galicia. Hundreds of thousands of modern-day pilgrims, art lovers, historians, and adventurers retrace the road today, traveling through a stunningly varied landscape which contains some of the most extraordinary art and architecture in the western world. For any visitor, the Road to Santiago is a treasure trove of historical sites, rustic Spanish villages, churches and cathedrals, and religious art.

To fully appreciate the riches of this unique route, look no further than The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, a fascinating step-by-step guide to the cultural history of the Road for pilgrims, hikers, and armchair travelers alike. Organized geographically, the book covers aspects of the terrain, places of interest, history, artistic monuments, and each town and village's historical relationship to the pilgrimage.

The authors have led five student treks along the Road, studying the art, architecture, and cultural sites of the pilgrimage road from southern France to Compostela. Their lectures, based on twenty-five years of pilgrimage scholarship and fieldwork, were the starting point for this handbook.

Pilgrim Who Is Calling You?, Owen Quinn

The Camino is unique and sacred everybody knows that before they start.

But it is special in more ways than you can imagine, the great Cathedrals, the towering mountains, the riot of colour across the landscape but above all the Pilgrims of the Camino are special. Pilgrims come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds, there is no such thing as “ordinary folks”. I met the old and the very young, pacifists and soldiers, bankers and scientists, professors and students, the great and the good and the not so good. All of them with a tale, if you have time to listen.

The Pilgrimage: A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom, Paulo Coelho

Either you love him or you just find him completely incomprehensible, either way he needs no introduction. In Spanish it's called El Peregrino: Diario de un mago.

The Journey in Between, Keith Foskett

Keith Foskett was the definition of restless. Drifting aimlessly, he knew a piece was missing from his life. But when a stranger in a Greek bar tells him about a world-famous pilgrim’s trail, the chance encounter sets Foskett’s life in a new 1,000-mile direction.

On El Camino de Santiago, the wanderer copes with extreme temperatures, fake faith healers, and insatiable kleptomaniacs. Threatened with arrest for ‘not sleeping’ and suffering with excruciating blisters, Foskett pushes himself to new limits. Can he find what he’s looking for and make it to the other side?

Keith Foskett’s travelogues have been shortlisted for Outdoor Book of the Year multiple times by The Great Outdoors magazine. Awash with vivid descriptions and a cast of engaging real-life characters, the author delivers a humorous and mesmerizing tale of adventure and metamorphosis.

The Journey in Between is a daring travel memoir. If you like indulging your inner adventurer, taking the less popular fork in the road, and visiting foreign locations, then you’ll love Keith Foskett’s transformative tale.

Spanish Steps: Travels With My Donkey, Tim Moore

Ludicrous, heart-warming and improbably inspirational, Spanish Steps is the story of what happens when a rather silly man tries to walk all the way across a very large country, with a very large animal who doesn't really want to.

Being larger than a cat, the donkey is the kind of animal Tim Moore is slightly scared of. Yet intrigued by epic accounts of a pilgrimage undertaken by one in three medieval Europeans, and committed to historical authenticity, he finds himself leading a Pyrenean ass named Shinto into Spain, headed for Santiago de Compostela.

Over 500 miles of extreme weather and agonising bestial sloth, it becomes memorably apparent that for the multinational band of eccentrics who keep the Santiagan flame alive, the pilgrimage has evolved from a purely devotional undertaking into a mobile therapist's couch.

Call of the Camino, Robert Mullen

The experiences of an ordinary man on the pilgrim’s path are charted in this narrative that walks along the Camino Francés to the shrine of Saint James at Santiago de Compostela and then on to Finisterre, the westernmost point of Spain. The history of the Camino is recounted, as well as several of the myths, legends, and miracle stories that have become attached—and given special meaning—to this itinerary. Emphasizing that personal myths are an essential part of this lore, this chronicle also includes stories from the confraternity of the pilgrims, people from all corners of the world who visit this walk for a great diversity of reasons, but all of whom leave having experienced the same miracle—that this pilgrimage will play a defining role in their lives.

Grandma's on the Camino, Mary O'Hara Wyman

In Grandma's On the Camino, author Mary O'Hara Wyman, a 72 year old grandmother from San Francisco, relates her 2010 adventures walking 500 miles alone as a pilgrim on the Camino Frances. Her journey takes her from St. Jean Pied de Port in France, across the Pyrenees to Spain, then westward to the ancient spiritual destination of Santiago de Compostela. Through back-home reflections based on journal entries and postcards sent to her grand daughter, Mary describes engaging encounters with pilgrims of all ages and motivations, close-range observations of numerous animals on the trails, and the daily tasks of finding food and a bed each evening. Readers will gain keen insight into the physical day to day rigors facing a walking pilgrim, as Mary endured several falls on the trails, a serious foot injury, copious rain, mud and unseasonal cold and hot weather. Grandma's On the Camino will inspire pilgrims and armchair readers of any age with Mary's adventures and coping mechanisms, calmness under pressure, humorous outlook on life and truly spiritual approach to walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. You will walk as a pilgrim with Mary through every word in the book.

Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau

Join award-winning author Phil Cousineau for a sacred journey around the globe.

First published in 1998 and updated with a new preface by the author, The Art of Pilgrimage is a sacred travel guide in book form that is full of inspiration for the spiritual traveler.

Award-winning writer and filmmaker and host of the acclaimed Global Spirits series seen on PBS and Link TV, Phil Cousineau weaves stories, myths, parables, and quotes from famous travelers with practical suggestions and accounts of modern-day pilgrims to show that there is something sacred waiting to be discovered in virtually every journey. Connecting these voices is a series of meditations that suggest different ways to practice what pilgrims and poets have done for centuries, to see with the eyes of the heart. With over 70 illustrations, this book is for the traveler who longs for something more than diversion and escape.

The Art of Pilgrimage shows that every journey can be sacred, soulful, and transformative if it is undertaken with a desire for spiritual risk and renewal. Whether traveling to Mecca or Memphis, Stonehendge or Cooperstown, one's journey becomes meaningful when the traveler's heart and imagination are open to experiencing the sacred.

The Man with the Camino Tattoo, Dermot Breen

"The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James, is a network of pilgrim routes leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, where the remains of the saint are believed to be buried. Over the centuries, many hundreds of thousands have followed its various routes as a form of religious or spiritual devotion. The path to Santiago is also known as the Way of the Sword. It's reputed to be the path where you fight your demons and find your strength. In 2016, Dermot decided to undertake a gruelling 1,000 kilometre pilgrimage along the challenging Camino del Norte in memory of his wife Jacqui, who had been cruelly taken from him fifteen months earlier by ovarian cancer. As he carries his rucksack and great sense of loss with him along the centuries old route, he dearly hopes to achieve some sort of peace - perhaps even find a place of sanctuary. And as the land he passes through gradually reveals many of its wondrous myths and legends associated with St James, he begins to believe that miraculous events are perhaps not only confined to the past. Through the tremendous camaraderie he experiences on his Camino, and particularly through his encounters with the enigmatic Jane, he gains a much better understanding of himself and his loss, which ultimately results in a surprising and life enhancing revelation. Told with great honesty and passion, this is a story that reaches into the very heart of the reader and demonstrates that, even when life can seem utterly hopeless, the human spirit is a powerful force that can rescue even the most vulnerable of souls."

A Philosophy of Walking, Frederic Gros

In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble and reveals what they say about us. Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice. On his travels he ponders Thoreau's eager seclusion in Walden Woods; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. He shows us how Rousseau walked in order to think, while Nietzsche wandered the mountainside to write. In contrast, Kant marched through his hometown every day, exactly at the same hour, to escape the compulsion of thought. Brilliant and erudite, A Philosophy of Walking is an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other.

The Way, My Way, Bill Bennett

“I’d never done anything crazy like this before – a pilgrimage walk. I was not a hiker, and I wasn’t a Catholic. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian. On the last government census when I had to state my religion, I'd said I was a Buddhist, mainly because they’ve had such a hard time in Tibet and I felt they needed my statistical support. I was also not an adventure traveller. For me, adventure travel was flying coach. All this backpacking and wearing of heavy boots and flying off to France to walk ancient pilgrimage routes was a new experience, and not one that made me feel entirely comfortable.” And so Bill Bennett, an Australian based film director, set off on an 800 kilometre walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, not sure why he was doing it, and not feeling entirely comfortable. His discomfort increased markedly a few days later when his knee gave out – so the rest of the walk was a “pain management pilgrimage.” But he kept his sense of humour, and his memoir is at times hilarious but also deeply moving, and insightful. In the vein of Bill Bryson and Eric Newby, The Way, My Way takes you on a unique spiritual journey, and gives you a hearty laugh along the way.

En español

El Peregrino, Jesús Torbado

For nine hundred years is not behaved men so very different from today: saints and sinners were confused on the same landscape, illuminated prophets and wearing similar sayal Rogues traffickers, prostitutes and heroes drank the same wine. El Camino de Santiago was in its infancy as an anvil upon which God and time beat with fury to those in transit. But perhaps there was never a stage in history as lavish and magical to represent the exaltation of life and the fear of death, the existence of happiness and laughter of deception.

En français

Immortelle randonnée, Jean-christophe Rufin

Jean-Christophe Rufin a suivi à pied, sur plus de huit cents kilomètres, le « Chemin du Nord » jusqu’à Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. Beaucoup moins fréquenté que la voie habituelle des pèlerins, cet itinéraire longe les côtes basque et cantabrique puis traverse les montagnes sauvages des Asturies et de Galice.

« Chaque fois que l’on m’a posé la question : “Pourquoi êtes-vous allé à Santiago ?”, j’ai été bien en peine de répondre. Comment expliquer à ceux qui ne Pont pas vécu que le Chemin a pour effet sinon pour vertu de faire oublier les raisons qui ont amené à s’y engager ? On est parti, voilà tout. ».

Galerie de portraits savoureux, divertissement philosophique sur le ton de Diderot, exercice d’autodérision plein d’humour et d’émerveillement, Immortelle randonnée se classe parmi les grands récits de voyage littéraires.

Auf Deutsch

Pilgerstab und Jakobmuschel, Norbert Ohler

Gewaltige Pilgerströme zogen zu den heiligen Stätten der Christenheit: Jerusalem, Rom, Santiago de Compostella wie zu zahlreichen Wallfahrts-und Gnadenorten. Das Buch bietet die eindrucksvolle Geschichte der Wallfahrtim Wandel der Epochen, vom Frühchristentum und Mittelalter über Reformationund Gegenreformation bis zur Neuzeit die Gefahren und Mühen, die Beherbergungund Versorgung, das spirituelle Erleben der Pilger sowie die epochale Ausstrahlungder Pilgerreisen, die entscheidend beitrugen zur "Vernetzung" der Wirtschafts-und Sozialstrukturen Europas und zu einer Erweiterung unseres Weltbildes.





Copyright © Gerald Kelly 2020. All text and photos.