These are a few books I’ve bought on the Camino de Santiago in the past few years. They are all about walking part or all of the Camino or passing across it.
Note these are not guide books but more peoples experiences that have traveled the way. I have also included links to Goodreads so you can find out more information.
I have only read about half of them so far, as my collection is growing out of hand. Once finished i’ve donated some of them to my local group Blue Mountains Australia Supporters of the Camino.
It has been nearly three decades since Shirley MacLaine commenced her brave and public commitment to chronicling her personal quest for spiritual understanding. In testament to the endurance and vitality of her message, each of her eight legendary bestsellers — from “Don’t Fall Off the Mountain” to “My Lucky Stars” — continues today to attract, dazzle, and transform countless new readers. Now Shirley is back — with her most breathtakingly powerful and unique book yet. This is the story of a journey. It is the eagerly anticipated and altogether startling culmination of Shirley MacLaine’s extraordinary — and ultimately rewarding — road through life. The riveting odyssey began with a pair of anonymous handwritten letters imploring Shirley to make a difficult pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostela Camino in Spain. Throughout history, countless illustrious pilgrims from all over Europe have taken up the trail. It is an ancient — and allegedly enchanted — pilgrimage. People from St. Francis of Assisi and Charlemagne to Ferdinand and Isabella to Dante and Chaucer have taken the journey, which comprises a nearly 500-mile trek across highways, mountains and valleys, cities and towns, and fields. Now it would be Shirley’s turn.
When Jack Hitt set out to walk the 500 miles from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, he submitted to the rigorous traditions of Europe’s oldest form of packaged tour, a pilgrimage that has been walked by millions in the history of Christendom.
Off the Road is an unforgettable exploration of the sites that people believe God once touched: the strange fortress said to contain the real secret Adam learned when he bit into the apple; the sites associated with the murderous monks known as the Knights Templar; and the places housing relics ranging from a vial of the Virgin Mary’s milk to a sheet of Saint Bartholomew’s skin.
Along the way, Jack Hitt finds himself persevering by day and bunking down by night with an unlikely and colorful cast of fellow pilgrims — a Flemish film crew, a drunken gypsy, a draconian Belgian air force officer, a man who speaks no languages, a one-legged pilgrim, and a Welsh family with a mule.
In the day-to-day grind of walking under a hot Spanish sun, Jack Hitt and his cohorts not only find occasional good meals and dry shelter but they also stumble upon some fresh ideas about old-time zealotry and modern belief. Off the Road is an engaging and witty travel memoir of an offbeat journey through history that turns into a provocative rethinking of the past.
“Whenever I was asked: ‘Why did you go to Santiago?’, I had a hard time answering. How could I explain to those who had not done it that the way has the effect – if not the virtue – to make you forget all reasons that led you to become involved in it in the first place.”
Each year, tens of thousands of backpackers (Christian pilgrims and many others) set out from either their front doorstep or from popular starting points across Europe, to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, others ride a bicycle, and a few of them travel as did some of their medieval counterparts, on horseback or with a donkey.
In addition to those who undertake a religious pilgrimage, the majority are hikers who walk the way for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of spending weeks walking in a foreign land. Also, many consider the experience as a spiritual adventure, with a view to removing themselves from the bustle of modern life.
Jean-Christophe Rufin followed this “Northern Way” to Santiago de Compostela by foot, on over eight hundred kilometers. Much less crowded than the usual pilgrimage route, this one runs along the Basque and Cantabrian coasts in Spain and through the wild mountains of Asturias and Galicia.
A fascinating and entertaining account of a trek along Spain’s ancient pilgrim trail – the five hundred mile long Camino de Santiago.
Replete with interesting snippets and anecdotes about the rich ethnic, cultural, military and religious history of Spain, Strangers on The Camino is no ordinary travelogue – but a very readable book that gives the reader a meticulous insight and perspective of a challenging journey by a father and son along the Camino.
Strangers on the Camino will be of interest and of use to those who are thinking of setting off on their own Camino. The detailed descriptions of The Way – and of the refugios and other accommodation which Sanjiva and his son Shivantha used – give a real sense of what it is like to make a six week journey by foot over a five hundred mile trail that traverses the mountains, mesetas and mists of Spain.
Overweight, unfit but thinking she was totally prepared for the challenge ahead, Maggie set off in search of adventure and the meaning of life at the age of 60. It seemed she had the ideal life with a good steady income, grown up family now off her hands, and the freedom to travel. She had the uniform, the backpack and good health. What more could she possibly want? In her heart and soul, she felt something was missing.
This is an honest, raw and inspiring account of a woman’s wanderings along an ancient path across the north of Spain known as the Camino de Santiago, a well worn track marked by yellow arrows and symbols of scallop shells. It is certainly not a walk in the park and you will be captivated by Maggie’s stories as she tells of her misgivings, pain, elation, and the unexpected transformation that evolved along the way. Her practical information, lists and hints also provide some great ideas for those who don’t know where to start.
Walking Back Home is not just another ‘how to’ or story about walking to Santiago. It tells an extraordinary tale of physical and spiritual transformation. It is also a great starting point with valuable information on how to prepare for such a journey. An inspirational read for anyone who is thinking of walking the Camino and a trip down memory lane for those who have already completed their own Camino.
Noel Braun yearns to walk the Camino, the ancient pilgrimage route that leads across France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela. Since the suicide of Maris, his beloved wife of forty-two years, he has struggled to find himself. But is it pure madness? He’s an old bloke. At seventy-seven years, he should be sensible, act his age and relax in a rocking chair. Can his body and spirit withstand the demands? Can he leave family and friends behind? Noel believes this is a journey he MUST undertake. It’s a compulsion, a spiritual quest of self-discovery, an urgent need to commune with the world around and beyond him.
When Noel begins his journey, he discovers it’s not just the rigorous demands of the physical world he must answer. The territory of the heart and soul has its own challenges, which have him searching for spiritual and emotional insights. His travels are interwoven with accounts of the many engaging characters he meets. In time he realises he himself is one of the Camino’s characters.
The Day Was Made for Walking merges the spiritual with the physical, the ancient with the contemporary. It is a memoir, but also a glimpse into history and a travel guide.
by Noel Braun
Since the suicide of Maris, his beloved wife of forty-two years, Noel Braun struggled to find himself. All his life assumptions were over turned and he lost his sense of identity.
Endeavouring to find some anchorage, he embarked on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. He decided to walk the most popular routes of the Camino; the ancient pilgrimage route that lead across France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of Spain. This journey is described in his earlier book The Day was Made for Walking.
The journey was far from over. Noel felt compelled to resume his quest. At the age of eighty, he returned to France to pursue a less popular route that took him across France and into Spain. Two years later, the urgent need to continue has him walking through Portugal into Spain. Despite his aging body and his many doubts, he has the confidence and faith in himself to face the arduous physical demands and reach Santiago de Compostela. Woven into his spiritual and emotional journey are fascinating stories of the people he meets.
I Guess I’ll Just Keep on Walking is a sequel. The physical and the spiritual merge with the ancient and modern. It delves into history and, at the same time, is a memoir and travel guide.
by Sue Kenney
The Camino de Santiago is one of the most celebrated pilgrimages in the world, dating to medieval times. Sue Kenney walked this route through intense weather conditions, on a life-altering odyssey that revealed many gifts and lessons. Walking with an open mind and body, she intended to find something she’d lost in a society that honored material goals and values above all. Only five weeks before leaving, as an account executive with an international high tech firm, she became a victim of corporate downsizing. It was the first step in becoming a Camino pilgrim like so many millions in the centuries before.
by Bill Bennett
In the vein of Bill Bryson’s and Eric Newby’s travel memoirs, The Way, My Way takes you on a unique journey along the Camino de Santiago – a book that’s both deeply moving and laugh-out-loud funny.
“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 said I was a Buddhist, mainly because they’ve had such a hard time in Tibet and I felt they needed my statistical support.”
And so Bill Bennett, an Australian based film director, set off on an 800 kilometer walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, not sure why he was doing it, particularly when his knee gave out and the rest of the walk became a “pain management pilgrimage.”
He kept his sense of humour though, and The Way, My Way takes you on a transformative spiritual journey that’s both enlightening and also very funny.
“Before walking my first Camino, I gave a lot of thought to my photographic needs and the challenges ahead. I’ve been taking photos professionally for more than forty years, yet even so I made some big mistakes on that first pilgrimage. I’ve since walked another Camino, and now I wish to pass on what I’ve learnt from those experiences.”
In Photo Camino, renowned Australian film director and photographer Bill Bennett, author of the bestselling Camino memoir The Way, My Way, discusses such issues as: what camera to take, using your smartphone camera, how to take good landscape shots, weather protection and security, blogging and social media, and using your camera to enrich your Camino experience.
As well, he discusses twelve classic Camino photos, and how best to take them – plus be provides his 100 top tips for photography along The Way.
Complete with more than 80 stunning photographs, Photo Camino is required reading for anyone wanting to take photos on the Camino de Santiago, or for those that simply want to discover the wonder of this ancient pilgrimage route.
Bill Bennett is an award winning film director, an Accredited Member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, and an Adjunct Professor of Creative Industries at the Queensland University of Technology.
by Tony Kevin
Filled with fascinating observations and anecdotes about the nature of contemporary Spain, this intriguing account tells the story of Tony Kevin, an overweight 63-year-old former diplomat who set off on an eight-week trek across the country armed only with a small rucksack and a staff. Rich with the history, politics, and culture of the region, this travel narrative follows two of the many pilgrim trails that crisscross Spain and Portugal and lead to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela, Europe’s most famous center of pilgrimage. By retelling Kevin’s journey, it delves into what drives tens of thousands of people of all nationalities and creeds to make long, exhausting walks across the cold mountains and hot tablelands of Spain. Beautifully capturing the flavor of both the past and present experiences of walking the camino, this chronicle depicts the concept of pilgrimage as not only having the potential to unlock hidden memory and conscience but also as a profound meditation on the nature of modern life. In addition to cultural and spiritual discussions, this diverse exploration also offers practical advice for would-be pilgrims—from packing and training to walking techniques and navigation. By addressing all of these aspects of the pilgrimage, this is the perfect book for religious pilgrims and armchair travellers alike.
Driven by curiosity, wanderlust, and
health crises David Downie and his wife set out from Paris to walk across
France to the Pyrenees. Starting on the Rue Saint-Jacques then trekking 750
miles south to Roncesvalles, Spain, their eccentric route takes 72 days on
Roman roads and pilgrimage paths—a 1,100-year-old network of trails leading to
the sanctuary of Saint James the Greater. It is best known as El Camino de
Santiago de Compostela—“The Way” for short. The object of any pilgrimage is an
inward journey manifested in a long, reflective walk. For Downie, the inward
journey met the outer one: a combination of self-discovery and physical
regeneration. More than 200,000 pilgrims take the highly commercialized Spanish
route annually, but few cross France. Downie had a goal: to go from Paris to
the Pyrenees on age-old trails, making the pilgrimage in his own maverick way.
32 pages of color photographs by Alison Harris.
by Simon Calder
High in the Pyrenees, a full day’s hike from any trappings of civilisation, is no place for a human to be – unless you are searching for the time of your life.
This is the roof of a mountain range that stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean coasts, and provides some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscape to be found in Europe. It is also the place for hikers to get soaked, roasted or scared out of their wits – not by the endangered brown bear, but by rights-of-way such as the precipitous Chemin de la Mature, hacked out of a cliff by 18th century convicts and is still used in the 21st century to punish anyone fearful of heights, such as TV presenter Simon Calder. Luckily, his friend and walking companion Mick Webb has a complementary range of phobias, such as being confined with 54 fellow hikers, and their socks, in a refuge two miles above sea level.
Together, they step out to conquer the roof of the Pyenees, following the time honoured tradition of walking the GR10. the preferred route of the, at times eccentric, French Ramblers’ Federation. Testing a hiker’s emotional resilience as keenly as his walking boots, the GR10 is not for the faint-hearted. Weaving an occasionally treacherous, always exhilarating trajectory through a landscape of strong traditions and strange animals, Calder and Webb narrate an eventful and humerous travelogue. With their backpacks, boots and baguettes, they explore the region: meeting the people, savouring the views and the wines – and aguing about how best to cope with the constant surprises and challenges of magnificent mountains. They also very quickly learn that la loi de l’emmerdement maximum means ‘sod’s law’ in French.
A true story of a woman’s transformation from an urban schoolteacher into a successful expeditioner—everywhere is within walking distance of you have the time
When Paula Constant and her husband, Gary, attempt to break away from the conventional 9-to-5 routine, a few weeks lazing in a resort or packed in a tour bus is not what they have in mind. What starts out as an idle daydream to embark on “a travel to end all travels” turns into something far greater: an epic year-long walk from Trafalgar Square in London to Morocco and the threshold of the Sahara Desert. This is quite an ambition for a woman who favors sharing cigarettes and a few bottles of wine with friends over logging time on the treadmill. But if the sheer arduousness of walking more than 25 kilometers a day through the landscapes and cultural labyrinths of France, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco—without a support vehicle—is overlooked in her excitement, then so too is the unexpected journey of self-discovery and awakening that lies beyond every bend. Both the companions she meets on the road and the road itself provide what no university can offer: a chance to experience life’s simple truths face to face.