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Top 10 Camino de Santiago Books you should read

Top 10 books inspired by the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago has inspired many to write about their experiences along the pilgrimage.  Many novelists have chosen the Camino as a setting. Some, like Paulo Coelho, have even found their true calling thanks to their walk towards Santiago. Here are our Top 10 Camino de Santiago Books, both fiction and non-fiction. 

Top 10 Camino de Santiago Books
 Paulo Coelho

1. The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

The Pilgrimage (Diário de Um Mago) is one of the most renowned novels about the Camino. Set in 1986, it follows the adventures of Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian man who undertakes the Camino as part of a quest to become initiated in a catholic organizationThe Pilgrimage is a mixture of adventures and a guide to self-discovery. We follow Paulo’s journey through the Camino and read the author’s reflections and insights into life.

The novel was inspired by Coelho’s own pilgrimage across Northern Spain in 1986. What is more, this trip led him to become a novelist. In fact, during his journey he reached the determination to stop dreaming about writing and start a writing career.

After the novel was published, many Brazilian pilgrims started walking the Camino, inspired by the author’s words and experience.

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    2. The Way to Santiago by Kim Hyo Sun

    Korean journalist Kim Hyo Sun is by now an expert on the Camino: she has written three books, each for one of the most popular routes: French Way, Portuguese Way and Vía de la Plata. Her work inspired many Koreans to walk the Camino themselves. But she is not the only one: fellow Korean Kim Nan Hee recalls her experience walking the French Way in The journey of a woman alone. This is a travel book that has helped promote the Camino in Korea.

    The two writers’ route books are one of the main reasons the Camino is so popular amongst Koreans. In fact, the country went from barely 24 pilgrims in 2004 to being the 9th most numerous nationality to walk the Camino in 2017.

    3. I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling

    German comedian Hape Kerkeling embarked on his pilgrimage to Santiago in search for meaning. As he walked, he began the journal which ultimately turned into this book. In it, we follow not only his struggles, as he deals with his own physical limitations and the hardships of the pilgrimage, but also his achievements and growth. At the end of each day, he looks back on his experience and writes about the lessons learned.

    Kerkeling’s tale shows that everyone can walk the Camino, no matter their physical state. Besides his own personal growth, the book brings us many glimpses of the pilgrimage, as we follow him through historic landscapes and meet his fellow pilgrims, all narrated through his characteristic humor.

    I’m Off Then has sold over 3 million copies, and its popularity may be one of the reasons the numbers of German pilgrims have skyrocketed.

    4. Roads to Santiago by Cees Notebloom

    Roads to Santiago is a travel book by dutch author Cees Notebloom. Notebloom’s trip is not a regular pilgrimage: along the way, he makes stops in Granada, Aragon, Soria, Madrid or even the island of La Gomera.

    His unconventional way of wandering through Spain offers insights into the history and customs of the country seen by a stranger’s eyes.

    edith wharton
    Edith Wharton

    5. Back to Compostela by Edith Wharton

    Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence, is one of the most renowned north-american writers of the early 20th century. The novelist traveled twice to Santiago de Compostela, in 1925 and 1928. Back to Compostela compiles her travel journals that relate her first trip, as well as an unfinished essay inspired by the second.

    Wharton’s writing allows us to experience the Camino as it was nearly 100 years ago.

    6. Peregrinatio by Matilde Asensi

    Set at the beginning of the 14th century, Peregrinatio is a historical novel that follows Jonas, a young man that travels to Santiago on a quest to become a knight.

    On Peregrinatio we accompany Jonas and a Templar Knight as they walk through 14th century Spain. The most noteworthy element of Asensi’s novel are the detailed descriptions of medieval cities and architecture. Also, the story of different religious orders and social customs.

    7. On the Primitive Way by Landon Roussel

    On the Primitive Way is the story of two Texan brother’s walking the Primitive Way through the mountains of Asturias. It is a tale of two siblings trying to reconnect after years of estrangement, caused by the younger brother’s addiction and drug abuse.

    Roussel wrote the book inspired by the death of his younger brother Cory, with whom he had walked the Camino.

    8. El asesino de la Vía Láctea by Gabriel Martínez

    A serial killer is on the loose and inspector Roncal of the Civil Guard is in charge of the case. After two pilgrims are murdered in albergues along the Way, the inspector begins to uncover all the clues to find the assassin.

    El asesino de la Vía Láctea is a thriller set in the Camino that has topped books sales on Amazon. The author, Gabriel Martínez, combines his passion for traveling with his love for writing in the novel.

    9. Your Inner Camino & After the Camino, by Karin Kiser

    One year ago since our interview with Karin Kiser, we still remember her books as a recommended read for the Camino.

    The first one, Your Inner Camino, will show you how you can free from those thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours that restrict our own spiritual development and also happiness.

    Top 10 Camino de Santiago Books

    The second one, After the Camino, will give you the key to assimilate the experiences given during the Camino to your own daily routine.  Therefore, if you are looking for spiritual answers along the Camino in order to let your eyes watch the life in a simpler manner, these Camino de Santiago books are a must!

    10. To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela by Kevin A. Codd:

    The author, Kevin A. Codd candidly shares the stories of other pilgrims, their challenges and triumphs along the Camino. He brilliantly captures the essence of the pilgrimage and reveals a spiritual and emotional journey in which pilgrims confront their own humanity.

     
    Pilgrims Camino de Santiago
     
    Here are just ten of many examples of books inspired by the Camino. Do you have a favorite one?
     
    Many have become inspired to walk to Santiago after reading one of these Camino de Santiago books. Will you be next?

    11. Buen Camino! Tips from an American Pilgrim

    The Camino de Santiago walk has inspired many writers to capture their experiences on a book

    Anne Born, New York based writer, is one of them. She has walked different Camino de Santiago routes, like the French Way, the Primitive Way… and now is planning the English Way for 2018. She has recently published her first book focused on the Way of Saint James, called: Buen Camino!: Tips from an American Pilgrim.

    Let’s learn a bit more about her motivations to walk the Camino, and to write a book about her experience!

    ➡ How many times have you walked the Camino and which routes did you follow?

    I’ve walked sections of the Camino six times: in 2009, the Camino Frances, from St Jean Pied de Port just to Roncesvalles – and I talk about this in the book. In 2010, alone from Sarria in late December. In 2012, again in December with two of my daughters from Leon. In 2014, from Roncesvalles to Burgos with my third daughter. In 2016 alone from Burgos to Leon. In 2017, from Oviedo to Santiago on the Camino Primitivo. I’m leaving New York in April to walk the Camino Ingles.

     ➡ The first time you walked the Camino, which route did you choose, and why?

    I walked the very first stage as a reconnaissance mission with my son. I wasn’t ready to commit to walking any distance. I was too afraid, to be honest. I only knew about the Camino Frances and at that time, I had not heard there were other routes, so I walked just the first stage – and I was done! It was too hard, I was sunburned and had miserable blisters, my pack was too heavy and I couldn’t keep up with my son. It was a miserable experience. I realized in one flash that if I lost the motivation, I wasn’t going anywhere. But i came to realize I could do it myself – solo. So, I came back and walked alone – from Sarria – just in time to walk through the Holy Door on December 31, 2010. That was extraordinary.

    Camino de Santiago Book

     ➡ Can you explain your motivations the first time you walked the Camino? Have they changed over the years?

    I wanted to see the churches. Simple. I had studied Romanesque sculpture in college and was attracted to the route to see how the sculptural programs were similar from one city to the next. I wanted to explore them all, never thinking that when I would be walking by, they would be closed! I now know that if a church door is open, you just go in. No waiting to get something to eat or shop a bit – no, no. Go into the church. Spanish churches are beautiful and I try to attend services every chance I get.

    ➡ Why did you decided to write a book?

    My priest in New York City is also a pilgrim and he knew my other books. When I got back in 2014, he said, “If you write about it, I would like to read it.” And another friend said he would be interested in helping me sell a book on the Camino. So, I started writing bits of it in 2014 and got about three viable outlines down before I just sat down and wrote the whole book. It was just a story I felt needed to be told: a collection of my experiences along with tips I thought other people could use.

    ➡ Did you know that you were going to write a book before walking the Camino, or did you decide that after the experience?


    Camino de Santiago Tours GaliwondersI think, yes, I did have a book in mind early on, although I might not have agreed to that then. I always walk with notebooks and I write down conversations I hear. I love listening to dialog. I’ve also worked as a volunteer in the Pilgrims Office in Santiago de Compostela, at two albergues (Ribadiso in Galicia and Grado in Asturias), and at The Abbey outside Pamplona – and I love talking to pilgrims and hearing their stories.

    ➡ Thinking about the title of your book, do you believe American pilgrims need specific tips, different to pilgrims from other nationalities?

    Americans tend to worry by nature, I think. I know people can be nervous that nobody will speak English, that they might not find food they like or a place to spend the night. I think many Americans, more than other pilgrims I’ve met, tend to look for validation or a community where they can find mentors or experienced pilgrims who can tell them how to do things. Many of the people I speak with call this walk something they’d like to do but it’s too hard, too expensive, too time-consuming. Or that it’s just for other people. I wanted to be able to speak from my own experience as an American pilgrim – not that I am an expert on the Camino but rather I am an expert on my own caminos. I thought my stories would be helpful.

    ➡ How do you feel when going back home in New York, such a big city, after so many days of “isolation” on the Camino?

    I have a trick. It’s the thing I do in my very big city to call up the solitude of the Camino. I sit in empty churches. It’s such a simple thing. I walk in, sit down, shut my eyes for a few minutes and let the sacred space shore me up. And it doesn’t have to be my church or one I’m familiar with. I love watching the flames flicker on the candles, I try to read the inscriptions on the windows, imagining the scores of people who have sat there just like me, reflecting on a crazy world, or a crazy life.

    ➡ Any anecdote on the way?

    My book is full of anecdotes! I do love how walking can be a way to find yourself at full circle. I was sitting on the porch at The Abbey, a renovation project between Zubiri and Larrasoana on the Camino Frances. My job was just to speak with passing pilgrims and telling them about the project and how it was going. A young girl walked by and I shouted to her. I asked where she was from – Indiana. “My son goes to IU!” I told her. “My cousin lives in South Bend!” She shouted back. We were in the middle of nowhere and we found common ground in just a few sentences. Another pilgrim walked by and shouted out to me, “Are you Anne Born? I read about you being here on Facebook!”

    ➡ Your favorite spot on the way?
    St James way book

    I adore Burgos. And Pamplona. I’d have to say my favorite albergue is in Ruitelan, just before you start climbing up to O’Cebreiro. And my favorite church? It’s in Portomarin. I was fortunate to be able to go to Mass there in 2012.

    ➡ Best and worst part of the experience?

    Best part is the people. It’s always the people. I have friends now from England, Switzerland, Korea, Italy – it’s the family I built along the way. We look out for each other and celebrate the smallest things, like finding a restaurant that’s open for dinner before 8:30 at night. I do love to talk to local residents of the towns I walk through too. I‘ll talk to everybody. And the worst? That’s a tough one. Rain, I guess. It can get you down.

    ➡ Any recommendations to those pilgrims planning to walk the Camino?


    Yes – I waited nearly four decades after learning about the Camino before experiencing it. If it interests you at all, just try it. Walk a bit. See if it agrees with you. I call myself “Tumbleweed Pilgrim” because I tend to tumble across Spain rather than stay on a fixed route. There’s nothing wrong with that. This is an adventure to make on your own to suit your needs. There’s no right way, no wrong way to do this.

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