There’s something about walking. When I’m unable to put feet on the ground and get myself lost in jungles both concrete and tropical, or in forests or fields, I like to read a good book where others are willing to do it for me. Walking is something that connects us with the Everything. It’s one of my favourite pastimes. Reading is most definitely a solid tie for that title. Reading about walking became a natural progression of things for me.
I thought I would compile a list of the books on walking that I’ve enjoyed the most. I recommend ANY of the books on this list. And don’t get me wrong, these are not books about putting one foot in front of the other and finding yourself moved from one place to another. Although that motion does indeed happen in each and every one of these stories. These are books about going inside while going outside. I’ll start with a few of my favourite quotes on walking…
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ~
“When I’m in turmoil, when I can’t think, when I’m exhausted and afraid and feeling very, very alone, I go for walks.” ~ Jim Butcher
“There comes . . . a longing never to travel again except on foot.”~ Wendell Berry
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” ~
“You don’t walk to kill time but to welcome it, to pick off its leaves and petals one by one, second by second.” ~
“Sometimes, leaving the road, I would walk into the sea and pull it voluptuously over my head and stand momentarily drowned in the cool blind silence, in a salt-stung neutral nowhere.” ~
“As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.” ~ Rumi
“If you are in a bad mood go for a walk.If you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.” ~ Hippocrates
“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
I could go on forever, because so many people throughout history have echoed the same love of walking and its benefits to the soul, the heart, the body, and the mind.
This list is going to begin with my favourite Camino books (surprise, surprise). In no particular order, other than the one at the top of the list (which is my favourite!), here are my TOP 8 BOOKS ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO. Descriptions are from the books, as displayed on Goodreads.
Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago by Beth Jusino
In April 2015, Beth and Eric Jusino, laden with backpacks and nerves, walked out of a cathedral in the historic village of Le Puy, France, down a cobblestone street, and turned west. Seventy-nine days, a thousand miles, two countries, two mountain ranges, and three pairs of shoes later, they reached the Atlantic Ocean.
More than two million pilgrims have walked the Way of Saint James, a long-distance hiking trail familiar to most Americans by its Spanish name, the Camino de Santiago. Each pilgrim has their own reason for undertaking the journey. For the Jusinos, it was about taking a break from the relentless pace of modern life and getting away from all their electronic devices. And how hard could it be, Beth reasoned, to walk twelve to fifteen miles a day, especially with the promise of real beds and local wine every night? Simple.
It turned out to be harder than she thought. Beth is not an athlete, not into extreme adventures, and, she insists, not a risk-taker. She didn’t speak a word of French when she set out, and her Spanish was atrocious. But she can tell a story. In Walking to the End of the World, she shares, with wry humor and infectious enthusiasm, the joys and travails of undertaking such a journey. She evocatively describes the terrain and the route’s history, her fellow pilgrims, and the villages passed, and the unexpected challenges and charms of the experience.
A Hug for the Apostle: On Foot from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela by Laurie Dennett
Describes the author’s pilgrimage alone and on foot along the famous medieval route from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela.
Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain by Andrew McCarthy
An intimate, funny, and poignant travel memoir following New York Times bestselling author and actor Andrew McCarthy as he walks the Camino de Santiago with his son Sam.
When Andrew McCarthy’s eldest son began to take his first steps into adulthood, McCarthy found himself wishing time would slow down. Looking to create a more meaningful connection with Sam before he fled the nest, as well as recreate his own life-altering journey decades before, McCarthy decided the two of them should set out on a trek like few 500 miles across Spain’s Camino de Santiago.
Over the course of the journey, the pair traversed an unforgiving landscape, having more honest conversations in five weeks than they’d had in the preceding two decades. Discussions of divorce, the trauma of school, McCarthy’s difficult relationship with his own father, fame, and Flaming Hot Cheetos threatened to either derail their relationship or cement it. Walking With Sam captures this intimate, candid and hopeful expedition as the father son duo travel across the country and towards one another.
Pilgrim: Finding a New Way on the Camino de Santiago by Carolyn Gillespie
When faced with an empty nest, Kari decides to spread her own wings. Giving up a job she loves, she sets off to walk across a whole country. A big one.
A contemporary take on an ancient experience, Pilgrim is an entertaining and moving memoir of Kari’s 900km walk to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In classic pilgrim fashion, she meets and befriends an array of companions along the way, from all walks of life, united by a common sincerity of purpose. Battling through sun and snow, mud and mountains, blisters and bedbugs, her real destination turns out to be “deep peace”.
Initially unsure of the difference between a long walk and a pilgrimage, Kari and her friend, are not sure what to expect as they embark on the Camino de Santiago. Sleeping in hostels and carrying all their belongings on their back takes some getting used to and they are sorely tested by the unrelenting physical challenge of the ‘great trudge’. In the early days they are preoccupied by the external journey. But soon, like a modern-day Canterbury Tales, Kari and Ali find themselves swept along by a motley band of pilgrims whose stories touch the heart and awaken the soul. Pilgrim brings to life, in vivid detail, the kindness of strangers, the warmth of village hospitality and the sisterhood of the Sturdy Girls. With San Miguel adopted as their patron saint, the Camino becomes filled with beer, laughter and a return to the carefree joy of childhood. There is an unburdening, a sloughing off of the things that don’t matter. Only what counts is left behind.
Pilgrim celebrates communitas , friendship and the resilience of the middle-aged women who keep going when those around them buckle, who bandage the broken, make them dinner and get them back on their feet. Encouraged by the ghosts of pilgrims who have walked the Way for a thousand years, and with no real choice in the matter, she finally slows down, and the pilgrimage becomes a journey to the interior. As she walks her defences are broken down and her heart opens.
On a transformational journey that takes her from the snowy mountains of the Pyrenees, through the dry winelands of Rioja, the mysticism of the Meseta, to the Green farmland of Galicia, a spiritual reawakening occurs. She revels in the utter joy of a frosty sunrise with shadows a hundred meters long, the frogs, and the cuckoo that follows them for miles. The body may be broken but nature has the cure.
Overweight, Undertrained and Terrified: A Camino Diary by Connor O’Donoghue
(My NOTE: LGBTQ Representation)
This is the entertaining and sometimes inspirational story of one morbidly obese 35-year-old Irishman who decides to walk 708 kilometres across the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage in Northern Spain one summer. On the journey, he faces a variety of physical and mental obstacles. The book is written in diary format, at turns poignant and funny in a light, pacey style.
Adventures on ‘The Way’: 1100 Miles on the Camino de Santiago by Graeme Harvey
Unfulfilled, wanting something more, and longing for a new adventure, Graeme Harvey and his wife Kirsty set out along 1100 miles of the fabled El Camino de Santiago fully kitted out for all eventualities…Or so they think! What actually follows is a picturesque, joyous, painful, pain au chocolat fuelled journey that will change their lives forever… “Inspiring!” “Very entertaining”, “Fantastic read”. Nominated for running book of the year in The Running Awards 2019.
Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago by Jules Torti
(My NOTE: LGBTQ Representation)
For many, walking the Camino is a decision predictably triggered by death, divorce, or a career crisis. It’s not Everest and it ain’t no walk in the park, but the Camino ‘family’ continues to inexplicably grow. In 2018 alone, 327,342 pilgrims were received at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Pilgrims worldwide are attracted to the gilded mystery and hope of the Camino. Like the Ouija board, magic 8-ball and Ann Landers, it surreptitiously provides answers.
There is snoring. Sleep apnea. Threadbare patience. Frayed nerves. Sour socks. A lot of salami. Shifting from a walk-in closet to a walking closet of just 10 pounds, Jules and Kim decided to walk the historic Camino before their lower backs (or any other body parts) decided otherwise. Jules learned all the essential Spanish they’d need — luckily everything that was necessary ended in ‘o’: vino tinto (red wine), queso (cheese), corto (small beer), chorizo (sausage), baño (bathroom).
Trail Mix is the open, frank, and funny story of one Canadian couple voted most unlikely to agree to such a daunting social experience.
There’s Something Going On!: Walking the Camino de Santiago by Simon Donlevy
Simon Donlevy was nearly 50 and had worked for a high street bank for 30 years when he embarked on an incredible personal journey. There’s something going on! takes us through his candid thoughts and emotions in the periods leading to the decision to take a sabbatical and live the life of a pilgrim as he walks nearly 500 miles along the Camino de Santiago.
The magic of the Camino soon reveals itself. He learns that he’s never really alone and that he needs nothing else in life other than those he can throw his arms around. What starts as a book about a walk, soon becomes a beautiful story told in an engaging and humorous way about people, love, adventure, escapism, charity and friendships.
Now on to some of my other favourite books on WALKING…
You didn’t think I’d curate a book on walking list without at least mentioning my own books on the subject, did you?
I wrote a young adult novel set on the Camino, as well as a short story set on the Camino…
My Amazon Author page can be found by clicking here.
If you’re a wanderluster who loves to get lost in the words of others who wanderlust, any of the titles mentioned above will get you on the right path!
If you have a favourite book on walking and it’s not listed here…feel free to mention it in the comments. I’m always looking for another book on the topic.