Hiking the Camino is on many people’s bucket lists. To prepare yourself, it’s good to read about it. These are the best books on Camino de Santiago.
What is the Camino the Santiago?
The Camino de Santiago (also known as the Way of St. James) is one of the most popular long-distance trails in the world. It’s an ancient pilgrimage road that leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest of Spain. Many people hiking the Camino say that it is a spiritual experience.
There is not one Camino, there are several Camino Routes. In fact, you can get on one of the Caminos from pretty much everywhere in Europe and then walk all the way to Santiago the Compostela.
The most popular route is the Camino Francés, which starts in the city of St. Jean Pied de Port, in the southwest of France, close to the Spanish border. If you plan on hiking the Camino or if you’d like to learn what it’s like to feel the call of the Camino, it’s fun to read one of the books about the trail. Some are even best-sellers and turned into popular films, like The Way with Martin Sheen.
Best books from people who walked the Camino de Santiago
The best Camino de Santiago books are books where people tell their own stories. Everybody has their own Camino journey and this makes every book different. These memoirs are incredibly useful if you think about hiking the Camino someday. You get a glimpse of what daily life on the Camino is like and how it can be a spiritual journey.
The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit (Shirley MacLaine)
The first book in this list of books about the Camino de Santiago is also the first book I’ve ever read about the Camino. Famous actress and oscar winner Shirley MacLaine tells the story of her walk on the Camino. It is certainly a spiritual journey and I love that she’s so honest and open-minded about it.
I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago (Hape Kerkeling)
I’m off then did the same for the Camino as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild did for the Pacific Crest Trail. This book sold over three million copies and increased the number of hikers on the ancient pilgrimage route by more than 20 percent. The German Hape Kerkeling is unfit, overworked, and overweight but decides to get off the couch and start walking. It’s a great read about physical challenges and spiritual experiences.
It’s Your Camino: One Couple’s 500-mile Pilgrimage Across Spain (Kenneth R. Strange Jr.)
People hike the Camino for various reasons and everyone has a different experience. That’s why I love the title of this book, it states exactly how you should approach a long-distance hike. As a couple, it’s a different experience compared to hiking solo and that makes It’s Your Camino a very interesting read. They describe every day as challenging and inspirational as well. A very honest trail journal.
The Pilgrimage (Paulo Coelho)
Did you know that hiking the Camino led to Paulo Coelho becoming one of the most famous writers in the world? His story about the Camino is captivating and is all about his personal journey and gives a lot of interesting insights. This book paved the way for his world-famous bestseller The Alchemist.
Two Million Steps: band-aids, cocktails, and finding peace along Spain’s Camino de Santiago (Patrick Devaney)
Patrick has everything: a great family, a successful career, and good friends. However, he can’t shake this negative feeling and he’s not satisfied with his life. What to do? Hike the Camino, of course! In this book, he tells his story. And yes, it becomes a spiritual journey where he finds peace. But also a great story about connecting with fellow pilgrims over (a lot of) drinks.
The Walk of a Lifetime: 500 Miles on the Camino de Santiago (Russ Eanes)
Russ dreamed about hiking the Camino for two decades. But you’re too old for an adventure like that when you’re over 60 right? When he’s 61 he decides to make a change. He quits his job to make his dream come true! This book is definitely an inspiration, you’re never too old to hike the Camino.
Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino De Santiago (Beth Jusino)
The “average couple” Beth and Eric Jusino need a break from fast pacing modern life and electronics, so they start hiking the Camino. They don’t speak French and barely any Spanish and the trail is a lot more challenging than they expected. But they keep on moving and continue their pilgrim’s journey. A beautiful heartwarming story.
Onward, Backward! -or- A Ramble to Santiago (Bennett Voyles)
Most people hike one Camino on foot, but Bennett wants to do it differently. In one summer, he hikes & cycles multiple Caminos. And not alone, he brings his wife and three teenage daughters. If that isn’t a family adventure! This is not only a book about life on the trail, but also about the history of the Camino and all the places they pass. Very interesting!
Pilgrim: Finding a new way on the Camino de Santiago (Carolyn Gillespie)
Pilgrim is a book about community, friendship, and resilience of middle-aged women. Kari and her friend don’t know what to expect and they find their way on the road to Santiago. It’s definitely a physical test, but the people they meet on the way are absolutely worth the challenge.
To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela (Kevin A. Codd)
This is one of the older books on this list, but definitely an interesting read! Why? Kevin is a pastor and tries to capture the essence of a pilgrimage walk. It’s about a spiritual and emotional hike, faith and love, and how to find peace with yourself.
What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain’s Camino de Santiago (Jane Christmas)
Don’t you love this title? To celebrate her 50th birthday, Jane joins a group of 14 women for a hike to Santiago de Compostela. Before she leaves, a psychic warns her about catfights, sexy hairy men, and death. And yes, she goes out anyway. This is a humorous book with an interesting view of the Camino.
Best books on Camino de Santiago: fiction
Not all Camino books are from personal experience. The Camino is also a great backdrop for an interesting novel or thriller. Unfortunately, there are not that many fiction books about the Camino, but I’m sure there will be in the future!
Two Steps Forward: A Novel (Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist)
This is one of my favorite books about the Camino. It’s a novel about two people meeting on the Camino, dealing with their personal issues, and falling in love. It has some incredibly funny moments and it’s a bit absurd at some points. If you liked Simsion’s bestseller The Rosie Project, you’ll definitely love this one!
Camino Guide Books
Although the Camino is very well-marked, it’s always convenient to bring one of the Camino guides, filled with useful information. Every Camino has its own guidebook. These are the most popular.
Camino de Santiago – Camino Francés (Sandy Brown)
The Camino Frances is the most popular Camino. This guidebook has a lot of detailed information about the trail from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela. A must-have for everyone who’s planning on hiking this Camino.
Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo: To Santiago De Compostela and Finisterre from Irun or Oviedo (Dave Whitson)
In the summer of 2022, I hiked a section of the Camino del Norte in Northern Spain and I couldn’t have done it without a guide. There are not that many places to stay in the Camino del Norte, so it was really handy to have all the maps to plan out your itinerary and find all the albergues. This Pilgrim’s guide is a must-have when you plan on hiking the Camino del Norte or the Camino Primitivo.
Camino Portugués: Lisbon – Porto – Santiago, Central and Coastal Routes (Matthew Harms, Anna Dintaman, and David Landis)
The Portuguese Camino is also very popular and you can start either in Lisbon or in Porto. This Camino de Santiago guidebook contains not only basic information and practical tips but also detailed maps. It’s pocket-sized and lightweight, which makes it a perfect companion for your trip.
The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson)
This is not a practical travel book about the Camino, but one to learn about the culture and the history. t tells you about the most interesting places, history, and beautiful monuments. It will make you understand and appreciate the route more and more and make your experience even better.
I hope you liked this list of the best books on Camino de Santiago. Would you like to read more hiking journals or do you need some inspiration for other amazing books about outdoor adventures? Read these posts as well:
- My Arizona Trail Journal – In the spring of 2022, I hiked the Arizona Trail (800 miles). In my trail journal, I’ll tell you all about my experience, about the good but also the bad times.
- 30 Best Books about the Outdoors – A list of the most amazing books about outdoor adventures.
- Would you like to read about other hiking trails as well? Check out this post with the Best Books for Hikers.
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