The best books on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago

Beebe Bahrami Author Of The Way of the Wild Goose: Three Pilgrimages Following Geese, Stars, and Hunches on the Camino de Santiago
By Beebe Bahrami

Who am I?

I'm an award-winning writer, anthropologist, and trekker. Much of my writing is centered on France, Spain, and Portugal and the trails of the Camino de Santiago. My passion for the Camino and its rich legacy arose over three decades ago as a study abroad student in southern Spain when I first heard about the Camino and journeyed across Spain, France, and Portugal. I knew then that my life would forever be bound up with going deeper into the rich histories, cultures, and places of these many-layered geographies. I'm best known for my travel memoirs (Café Oc, Café Neandertal), guidebooks (Moon Camino de Santiago, The Spiritual Traveler Spain), and widely published travel essays. 


I wrote...

The Way of the Wild Goose: Three Pilgrimages Following Geese, Stars, and Hunches on the Camino de Santiago

By Beebe Bahrami,

Book cover of The Way of the Wild Goose: Three Pilgrimages Following Geese, Stars, and Hunches on the Camino de Santiago

What is my book about?

The Way of the Wild Goose—Three Pilgrimages Following Geese, Stars, and Hunches on the Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage-memoir-turned-adventure story pursuing a persisting pagan mystery on the Camino de Santiago: Why is the goose associated with the medieval Camino de Santiago, and how did it come to preserve a whole universe of pagan, pre-Christian lore in one innocent symbol? In seeking the answer, The Way of the Wild Goose unfolds as one journey through three pilgrimages across France and Spain and into wild nature, ancient pathways and history, encounters with colorful pilgrims and wise locals, and mysterious and unexpected folklore. It also unknowingly catapulted me into a true wild goose chase, unearthing a magnetically alive and meaningful long walk on the ancient roads in Europe as well as into the self.

The books I picked & why

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The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook

By David M. Gitlitz, Linda Kay Davidson,

Book cover of The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook

Why this book?

This is the definitive guide to the historical details of the Camino de Santiago, answering any question, however large or small—from the Roman stones on the path to the meaning of engravings, paintings, and stained glass windows—in the many churches and monuments along the way.

The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook

By David M. Gitlitz, Linda Kay Davidson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readers tour the most popular pilgrimage route in the world, covering the ground traversed by Medieval pilgrims as they trek accross the Pyranees from France to Spain headed for the tomb of the Apostle James. Original. 12,500 first printing.

A Hug for the Apostle : On Foot from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela

By Laurie Dennett,

Book cover of A Hug for the Apostle : On Foot from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela

Why this book?

A Hug for the Apostle: On Foot from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela documents in engaging detail and voice a very long walk, from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela in the mid-1980s, before the Camino was well known and had dedicated infrastructural support. Dennett’s intrepid account is not only about this journey but also about the historical and cultural roots of the Camino, with a strong respect for, and colorful detail of, locals and their cultures, pilgrims, and the places through which she walked.

A Hug for the Apostle : On Foot from Chartres to Santiago de Compostela

By Laurie Dennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Hug for the Apostle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Way of Saint James, Volume I

By Georgiana Goddard King,

Book cover of The Way of Saint James, Volume I

Why this book?

The Way of Saint James: In Three Volumes is three volumes of adventure and rich history, art history, folklore, and intrepid exploration along the Camino trails in France and northern Spain through the eyes of this Bryn Mawr College art historian in the early 1900s. She is broad in her understanding of the lands, monuments, and peoples through which she travels and a maverick at a time when few men, let alone women, made this journey. Her insights into history and culture remain important today.

The Way of Saint James, Volume I

By Georgiana Goddard King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way of Saint James, Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela

By William Melczer,

Book cover of The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela

Why this book?

This is a comprehensive and colorful translation into English of the Latin 12th century pilgrim’s guide, book five of the Liber Sancti Jacobi, purportedly written by the French monk Aimery Picaud. Melczer not only translates this practical and feisty medieval guide, but his footnotes are copious and at times even more colorful than the main text, adding more context and understanding to the experiences of the medieval pilgrim and the medieval landscapes of France and Spain.

The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela

By William Melczer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago: Journeys Along an Ancient Way in Modern Spain

By Nancy Louise Frey,

Book cover of Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago: Journeys Along an Ancient Way in Modern Spain

Why this book?

Pilgrim Stories is an engaging anthropologist’s account of gathering and making sense of pilgrim experiences and stories from all walks of life, before, during, and after their pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. It is a wonderful work that captures the complex and transformative pilgrimage process as it plays out on individual and collective physical, psychological, and spiritual levels. 

Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago: Journeys Along an Ancient Way in Modern Spain

By Nancy Louise Frey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pilgrim Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Each year thousands of men and women from more than sixty countries journey by foot and bicycle across northern Spain, following the medieval pilgrimage road known as the Camino de Santiago. Their destination is Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the apostle James are said to be buried. These modern-day pilgrims and the role of the pilgrimage in their lives are the subject of Nancy Louise Frey's fascinating book. Unlike the religiously-oriented pilgrims who visit Marian shrines such as Lourdes, the modern Road of St. James attracts an ecumenical mix of largely well-educated, urban middle-class participants. Eschewing comfortable methods…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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