Whether you are simply wanting to learn more about the Camino or you are preparing to tackle it, these thirty one Camino de Santiago books will feed you with both inspirational stories and practical advice.
Camino de Santiago Books: 31 Great Reads
Search Amazon for “Camino de Santiago” and you’ll get two thousand responses. It can be an overwhelming task to try to find the best Camino de Santiago books. Never fear, I’ve got your back.
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I’m an unrepentant book nerd and a recovering bookseller so you can trust me to give you recommendations for some great reads. I’ve crowd sourced this list of Camino books from my own reading pile along with recommendations from other pilgrims.
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Camino de Santiago Memiors
These memoirs are great if you are thinking of doing the Camino and would like some inspiration from the experiences of others. These books feature misadventure, impulsiveness and true friendship.
Christmas is supposed to be leading a group of squabbling mid-life women on the Camino but after the group splinters, her real adventure begins. Her opinions are unvarnished and show the difficult side of doing the trail. “A pilgrim life is largely an artificial one: you exist in a bubble of camaraderie, pain and poverty of shared purpose.”
I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair, Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck
If you think doing 500 miles of trail with a backpack sounds hard, try doing it while pushing your friend in a wheelchair. This Camino de Santiago book is as much about their strong commitment and friendship as it is about the trail. You can also watch I’ll Push You as a documentary on Amazon Prime video. “There’s no limit to what we can provide for others, or what others can provide for us.”
Buen Camino!, Natasha Murtagh and Peter Murtagh
This daddy-daughter duo tackled the Camino together and you get their story from both points of view. They talk about their shared experiences and also their encounters with fellow pilgrims. “It’s about family and friendship and camaraderie.”
The Pilgrimage, Paul Coelho
This book won’t be for everyone. In fact, the reviews are very polarized. Coelho has written this book in the style of a parable, or moral tale. It’s part self-discovery, part adventure yarn and it reads like fiction. “The book is a reminder that life is brilliant and that we are capable of so much more than we believe we are…”
I’m off Then, Hape Kerkeling
“Overweight, overworked, and physically unfit, Kerkeling was an unlikely candidate to make the arduous pilgrimage…” Hmm, sounds like they were talking about me. But I managed it and so did Kerkeling. This book is great for readers who want an honest account of the pitfalls, sufferings and rewards to be found on the Camino.
Kevin chose to take the longer and less popular Via de la Plata route to Santiago. It winds through some of the most interesting and historical cities in Spain, including Sevilla and Salamanca. Kevin’s memoir is unique in that it covers both his experiences as well as the cultural history of the regions that he walks through. “The Way encompasses many places and reminders of Spain’s past, both dark and dazzlingly bright.”
Hilarious Tales of Wacky Derring Do
If the following authors were able to successfully navigate the Camino (with donkeys, a cranky attitude and mishaps), so can you.
Spanish Steps: Travels with My Donkey, Tim Moore
Because of course you take a donkey on the Camino! Moore’s donkey Shinto, is like a Sancho Panza straight man, providing ballast to Moore’s hilarious questing. “Quirky one minute. Cranky the next.”
The Year We Seized the Day: A True Story of Friendship and Renewal on the Camino, Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles
This funny and brutally frank Camino de Santiago book shares the perspective of two authors; who were friends before they went. However, the Camino tested them as individuals as well as their friendship. They were both under-prepared and the Camino worked its magic on them the slow, hard way. The book is “… more about what happens when you have the time and space to look within yourself.”
The Way, My Way, Bill Bennett
Bennett is a Bill Bryson doppelganger and his self-deprecating humor serves him well as he walks the Camino in his own way. “…the Camino gives you what you need just when you need it. I think that Bennett discovered that, on his own terms.”
Spiritual and Religious Memoirs
The Camino is, after all, a religious pilgrimage. Many people bring their Catholicism onto the trail but the Camino welcomes whatever you choose to bring to it.
This Camino de Santiago book is highly recommended in the Camino forums. Codd talks about his physical and spiritual experience walking the pilgrimage. He shares the stories of others and the challenges and changes that he experienced on the trail. He’s a Catholic priest but secular or skeptical readers can enjoy the book at well. “Codd offers a delightfully honest and yet thoughtful memoir–one of the best I’ve read”
Rupp is a nun and she traveled with a priest, but this book keeps the religion low key. This book doesn’t follow a linear narrative but rather, is focuses on the lessons that she learned during her pilgrimage. “Struggles are the fertilizer for spiritual growth.”
The Camino: a Journey of the Spirit, Shirley MacLaine
MacLaine has been on an extended spiritual journey for eighty years and the Camino was an important pit stop on that road. The book covers her time on the Camino but also places her pilgrimage in the context of her larger life’s journey. “Without the recognition of the soul’s journey within us, we are lost and only part of what we were intended to be.”
Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed, Sonia Choquette
Choquette embarked upon the Camino after a devastating series of life turns that included death, divorce and disappointment. She is a spiritual teacher and set out in the pilgrimage to regain her spiritual footing. “…in the end, she found her way back to grace…”
Read More: Get inspiration from five women who tackled the Camino solo.
Camino de Santiago Guide Book-Memoir Hybrid
These books are good for someone who has already decided to do the Camino but needs a bit of inspiration and a big dose of practical advice.
Walking Back Home: Finding Clarity on the Camino, Margaret Caffyn
The Camino isn’t just for Millennials with strong muscles and good knees. There are a lot of 50+ pilgrims who are looking for a life reset (like me) or are rethinking their purpose after the nest has emptied (like my friend Amy). Caffyn does just that and she shares her tale of physical and spiritual transformation. The book also includes some practical advice on pilgrim etiquette, training tips and a packing list. “…her vulnerability in sharing her experience makes this book a keeper.”
Read More: Figure out how to pack light for the Camino with this packing list.
Practical Camino de Santiago Guide Books
You don’t need a Camino de Santiago guide book to help you find your way because the trail is well marked. However, it is useful to have a guide that will give you the following: a complete list of albuerges (with costs and services offered), a list of suggested stages (with distances and elevation profile), and some historical and cultural context for key sites along the trail.
A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, John Brierly
I used the Brierly guide primarily for it’s historical and cultural information about the churches, museums and other sites along the Camino. Their list of albuerges is useful, but not exhaustive, however they do give suggestions for alternative lodging, such as guesthouses. The link above goes to the Frances guide, but they also have guides for the Sarria-to-Santiago segment and the Portuguese Way.
Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances: St Jean-Santiago-Finisterre (Village to Village Guide), Anna Dintaman and David Landis
This book has just recently been updated. It has more trail information than necessary since the trail is well marked. But it also has some nice history and other information on the towns, churches and other sites. If you want a traditional guidebook, get this one or the Brierly. You don’t need both.
The Camino Francés – A Wise Pilgrim Guide to the Camino de Santiago, Michael Matynka Iglesias
Iglesias has super practical guides for the Frances, Portgues, Primitivo and Norte routes. They each have very a comprehensive accommodation directory, a list of available services in each city, an elevation profile and large scale maps.
This book is a cultural history guide to the terrain, places of interest, history and monuments along the Frances route. It’s a big book and there’s a lot to cover, so I’d suggest buying the Kindle edition and reading slightly ahead of your hike through the region.
Seven Tips to Make the Most of the Camino de Santiago, Cheri Powell & Pilgrim Tips & Packing List, S. Yates
Both of these books offer a series of practical tips on how to prepare for the Camino. They include packing tips and information on the nuts and bolts of daily pilgrim life. You can probably get similar information from trolling blogs (including my super detailed packing list), but since these Camino guides are free with Kindle Unlimited, you have nothing to lose by sampling them.
Get tons of free travel books (like Lonely Planet guides) with Kindle Unlimited using an Amazon Prime account. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, you can get a 30-day free trial HERE.
Preston’s planning guide is targeted for the older pilgrim. His motto is “Have fun. Have an adventure. Don’t kill yourself.” Not all pilgrims want to hike quickly, carry a huge pack or stay in dorms. If this sounds like you, get this guide for how to take an alternative approach.
Free Camino de Santiago Guide Books and Resources
The Camino Forum has several free resources which are worth downloading. You’ll need to set up a free membership to access the documents and the discussion forums.
- List of all albuerges on the Frances trail (current as of 12/17). This list offers distances between towns, lists all albuerges and the services they offer.
- An edited list of “favorite” albuerges. These hostels each offer something special like communal meals, a historic landmark, killer location and/or cool amenities.
- Profile maps and stages for the Frances. This brief cheat sheet is a great resource for making informed decisions on how far to walk on a given day. I had a printed version of it and always consulted it as I planned my next few days of walking.
More Books on Quests, Epic Walks and Kindness
The following books are not about the Camino, or at least not exclusively so. However, they do touch on themes that repeatedly appear on the Camino; embarking upon an epic quest, good long walks, traveling light and the kindness of strangers. I actually read Thoreau on the way over to Spain and it helped to put me in a walking frame of mind.
- Walking, Henry David Thoreau. A meditation on the value of walking in nature.
- A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor. Following the author’s quest to walk from Holland to Constantinople.
- A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson. A series of ill prepared misadventures on the Appalachian Trail.
- Wanderlust: a History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit. A portrait of the cultural possibilities experienced through the pleasures of walking with quotes and stories from great walkers and travel writers.
- Wild, Cheryl Strayed. Strayed found herself by forging a path along the Pacific Crest Trail (which includes a painful lesson on the value of breaking in your hiking boots ahead of time. Just sayin’, don’t be that pilgrim).
- The Longest Way Home, Andrew McCarthy. McCarthy goes on a series of quests (including the Camino) to discover and unblock what’s holding him back.
- Vagabonding, Rolf Potts. Potts’ travel philosophy on how to discover the world on your own terms– go slow and go light. Good advice for the Camino too.
- The Happiness of Pursuit, Chris Guillebeau. Learn about the value of questing and read profiles of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
- Congratulations by the Way, George Saunders. Moving commencement speech with an uplifting message on the value of being a kind leader.
More Resources for Planning a Camino Pilgrimage
- Budget your Camino with this article outlining costs for three different budget levels plus a FREE spreadsheet tool.
- Get inspiration and advice from other women who have done the Camino Solo.
- Learn why, despite how hard it is, I’m going back for another round on the Camino.
- Check out my Camino packing list, which includes a free downloadable checklist.
- Camigas Facebook group – This is a very friendly and active group for female pilgrims. Their advice has informed both this book list and also my packing list.
- The Camino Forum community. They have lots of resources and a forum for asking questions.
- St James Way walkers Facebook group.
READ MORE BOOKS!
Start with this list of the very best travel books. It includes great reads about how travel is transformative, offering wacky tales of derring do, epic quests and stories of authentic travel.
You should also check out the following series of book lists for specific destinations:
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