100 books like The Canterbury Tales

By Geoffrey Chaucer, Nevill Coghill (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Canterbury Tales fans have personally recommended if you like The Canterbury Tales. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Beatrice's Last Smile: A New History of the Middle Ages

Eleanor Janega Author Of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

From my list on illuminating the Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a medieval historian who specialises in social history, and more particularly on sexuality, propaganda, and apocalypticism. I fell in love with the period from my very first class during my BA, but even back then, I was struck by just how little we as a society pay attention to some thousand years of history. Even worse, we often tell lazy myths about the Middle Ages as a time of filth and ignorance that makes us feel good about ourselves. Since not everyone can get a Ph.D. like I did, I have dedicated my career to bringing the period to light. I hope this book list does just that.

Eleanor's book list on illuminating the Middle Ages

Eleanor Janega Why did Eleanor love this book?

This book made me rethink how we consider the idea of the Middle Ages–full stop.

Pegg tracks the medieval period through the concept of holiness, and if you think that might be boring, then I have got news for you about how wild medieval (and Late Antique!) people were.

Whether it is being stoked to be sent to your death in the gladiatorial ring or writing transcendent fiction about how the girl you had a crush on as a teenager is waiting for you in heaven, Pegg shows that medieval people were constantly rethinking what it meant to be alive and how to square that in a Christian society. I guarantee it will make Trad Caths absolutely livid.  

By Mark Gregory Pegg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beatrice's Last Smile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mark Gregory Pegg's history of the Middle Ages opens and closes with martyrdom, the first that of a young Roman mother in a North African amphitheater in 203 and the second a French girl burned to death beside the Seine in 1431. Both Vibia Perpetua and Jeanne la Pucelle died for their Christian beliefs, yet that for which they willingly sacrificed their lives connects and separates them. Both were divinely inspired, but one believed her deity shared the universe
with other gods, and the other knew that her Creator ruled heaven and earth. Between them, across the centuries, lives were…


Book cover of The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science

Eleanor Janega Author Of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

From my list on illuminating the Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a medieval historian who specialises in social history, and more particularly on sexuality, propaganda, and apocalypticism. I fell in love with the period from my very first class during my BA, but even back then, I was struck by just how little we as a society pay attention to some thousand years of history. Even worse, we often tell lazy myths about the Middle Ages as a time of filth and ignorance that makes us feel good about ourselves. Since not everyone can get a Ph.D. like I did, I have dedicated my career to bringing the period to light. I hope this book list does just that.

Eleanor's book list on illuminating the Middle Ages

Eleanor Janega Why did Eleanor love this book?

If I hear someone who has never studied medieval history once in their life refer to the “Dark Ages” as a time when “Science” was banned by the Church one more time, I will actually die, and this book does an amazing job of explaining how ignorant those old myths are.

Falk laces this book with delicious tidbits of the weird and wonderful of medieval scientific (or, to be nerdy, what we would call natural philosophical) ideas. Goat fat enemas? Sure. But there is also the transcription of Persian manuscripts, the invention of mechanical clocks and eyeglasses, and the creation of the University.

The book brings to life a vibrant, interconnected intellectual world and is a testament to how clever medieval people were in circumstances that were much more difficult than our own.

By Seb Falk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Light Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soaring Gothic cathedrals, violent crusades, the Black Death: these are the dramatic forces that shaped the medieval era. But the so-called Dark Ages also gave us the first universities, eyeglasses, and mechanical clocks. As medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky, they came to develop a vibrant scientific culture.

In The Light Ages, Cambridge science historian Seb Falk takes us on a tour of medieval science through the eyes of one fourteenth-century monk, John of Westwyk. Born in a rural manor, educated in England's grandest monastery,…


Book cover of The Inferno

Eleanor Janega Author Of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

From my list on illuminating the Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a medieval historian who specialises in social history, and more particularly on sexuality, propaganda, and apocalypticism. I fell in love with the period from my very first class during my BA, but even back then, I was struck by just how little we as a society pay attention to some thousand years of history. Even worse, we often tell lazy myths about the Middle Ages as a time of filth and ignorance that makes us feel good about ourselves. Since not everyone can get a Ph.D. like I did, I have dedicated my career to bringing the period to light. I hope this book list does just that.

Eleanor's book list on illuminating the Middle Ages

Eleanor Janega Why did Eleanor love this book?

I’m a giant nerd for fantasy, and my man Dante pretty much invented it with this book. Basically, every depiction of Hell you have ever seen in a book or on a movie screen? Yeah, Dante did that.

But it’s not just coming to grips with the, frankly iconic, nine circles of hell that make me love it; it’s the fact that Dante is also this very clearly petty, grudge-holding, self-absorbed regular guy who just so happens also to have an incredible imagination.

Yes, I love it because it’s a disturbing and beautiful revery about mislead lives, but it’s also a window into the soul of a medieval man. Come for the philosophical quandaries; stay for the demons and the ironic punishments. I re-read this constantly.

By Dante Alighieri, John Ciardi (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Belonging in the immortal company of the works of Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri’s poetic masterpiece is a visionary journey that takes readers through the torment of Hell.

The first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy is many things: a moving human drama, a supreme expression of the Middle Ages, a glorification of the ways of God, and a magnificent protest against the ways in which men have thwarted the divine plan. One of the few literary works that has enjoyed a fame both immediate and enduring, The Inferno remains powerful after seven centuries. It confronts the most universal…


Book cover of Other Middle Ages: Witnesses at the Margins of Medieval Society

Eleanor Janega Author Of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

From my list on illuminating the Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a medieval historian who specialises in social history, and more particularly on sexuality, propaganda, and apocalypticism. I fell in love with the period from my very first class during my BA, but even back then, I was struck by just how little we as a society pay attention to some thousand years of history. Even worse, we often tell lazy myths about the Middle Ages as a time of filth and ignorance that makes us feel good about ourselves. Since not everyone can get a Ph.D. like I did, I have dedicated my career to bringing the period to light. I hope this book list does just that.

Eleanor's book list on illuminating the Middle Ages

Eleanor Janega Why did Eleanor love this book?

This deep dive into the people that medieval Europe sidelined is absolutely indispensable for understanding society as a whole.

I get frustrated because when people think about the medieval period, they assume that it was a time when everyone just quietly played along with whatever the Church said, and everyone was a straight white Christian keeping quiet. This book goes and finds the people that the medieval period wanted hidden and brings them to light.

I also like that it helps us to consider that we still partake in the same othering behaviours now. It’s full of fascinating primary sources, and I find it totally absorbing.

By Michael Goodich (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Other Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seldom heard from in modern times, those on the margins of Medieval Europe have much to tell us about the society that defined them. More than just a fascinating cast of characters, the visionaries and sexual dissidents, the suicidal and psychologically unbalanced, the lepers and converts of Medieval times reveal the fears of a people for whom life was made both meaningful and terrifying by the sacred.
After centuries of historical silence, these and other disenfranchised members of the medieval public have been given voice by Michael Goodich in a unique collection of texts from the mid-eleventh through the fourteenth…


Book cover of The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God

ffiona Perigrinor Author Of Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

From my list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d already published a scholarly book about the household of a medieval widow, who was just a decade older than Margery Kempe and lived sixty miles away, so the time, place, and mindset seemed very familiar. As a Jungian Psychoanalyst I’m interested in how individuals find the central meaning in their lives. Clearly for Margery it was the search for God, although she doesn’t appear to have been a kindly soul. When I read that she twice quarreled with her maidservant, I realised the maidservant could tell her own tale. And so she did, and sometimes it seemed she was dictating it to me! Characters really do speak for themselves... 

ffiona's book list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe

ffiona Perigrinor Why did ffiona love this book?

There’re numerous books on medieval pilgrimage, and even though I don’t agree with all of Sumption’s conclusions, I’m recommending this for its readability and fascinating anecdotes and quotations, drawn from contemporary accounts, which were invaluable for my research. It’s informative about both the devout and more worldly travelers, kings, queens, clerics and nobles, and the common people of the day.

One major drawback is that his focus is largely on France and Rome, while Jerusalem, Santiago, and the German pilgrimage sites don’t get the attention they deserve. But this just demonstrates how popular pilgrimage was throughout the Middle Ages and how busy the highways and byways were with crowds of pilgrims. I learnt that people were much more mobile at this time than I had thought.

By Jonathan Sumption,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Brings alive the history of pilgrimage in Europe

We are apt to forget how much people traveled in the Middle Ages. Not only merchants, friars, soldiers and official messengers, but crowds of pilgrims were a familiar sight on the roads of Western Europe. In this engaging work of history, Jonathan Sumption brings alive the traditions of pilgrimage prevalent in Europe from the beginning of Christianity to the end of the fifteenth century. Vividly describing such major destinations as Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela and Canterbury, he examines both major figures--popes, kings, queens, scholars, villains--and the common people of their day.…


Book cover of Pilgrimage in Medieval England

ffiona Perigrinor Author Of Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

From my list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d already published a scholarly book about the household of a medieval widow, who was just a decade older than Margery Kempe and lived sixty miles away, so the time, place, and mindset seemed very familiar. As a Jungian Psychoanalyst I’m interested in how individuals find the central meaning in their lives. Clearly for Margery it was the search for God, although she doesn’t appear to have been a kindly soul. When I read that she twice quarreled with her maidservant, I realised the maidservant could tell her own tale. And so she did, and sometimes it seemed she was dictating it to me! Characters really do speak for themselves... 

ffiona's book list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe

ffiona Perigrinor Why did ffiona love this book?

If you want to know the reality of medieval pilgrimage, read this book. I learnt a lot from it and got a real feel for this group of people. Webb describes the multiple reasons for going on pilgrimage, as a penance, fulfilling a vow, looking for a cure or a blessing, or just having a good time. She introduces us to a wider variety of individuals than Chaucer’s famous pilgrims and describes the most important shrines in England, like Walsingham and the St Thomas shrine in Canterbury, as well as numerous small shrines with local cults where country folk went to worship in the hope of finding their lost keys or cattle. You might discover, as I did, there is still one near you!

By Diana Webb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pilgrimage in Medieval England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The men and women who gathered at the Tabard Inn in Southwark in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" are only the most famous of the tens of thousands of English pilgrims, from kings to peasants, who set off to the shrines of saints and the sites of miracles in the middle ages. As they travelled along well-established routes in the hope of a cure or a blessing, to fulfil a vow or to see new places, the pilgrims left records that let us see medieval people and their concerns and beliefs from a unique and intimate angle. As well as the most…


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

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

From my list on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Beebe's book list on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago

Beebe Bahrami Why did Beebe love 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.

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.


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

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

From my list on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Beebe's book list on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago

Beebe Bahrami Why did Beebe love 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.

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.

What is this book about?

"The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela" presents the first complete English translation of Book Five of the Liber Sancti Jacobi or Codex Calixtinus. This twelfth-century guidebook traces the route from southern France to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The medieval Christian world knew three major pilgrimage sites - Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela. Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries Santiago de Compostela was by far the most popular. Pilgrimage to Compostela was a once-in-a-lifetime human adventure. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came year after year through France and across the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela near the…


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

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

From my list on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Beebe's book list on the culture and history of the Camino de Santiago

Beebe Bahrami Why did Beebe love 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. 

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…


Book cover of The Crossway

Stefanie Wilson Author Of The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

From my list on the healing power of travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love travelogues and wrote a dual POV travel memoir with my husband. Travel writing allows us to see the world through others’ eyes, and my favorites are by those who used travel as a way to escape or heal. I’m more invested when I know this person not just wants, but needs this journey. I understand this feeling. I empathize with them, I root for them, and I am happy for them when they reach their destination. I adore Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, and want to recommend five other memoirs that have stayed with me as examples of brave people who left home behind in search of something better.

Stefanie's book list on the healing power of travel

Stefanie Wilson Why did Stefanie love this book?

Guy left his demons in England and set out on a pilgrimage. After mental health issues and a year of being afraid to leave his home, Guy re-entered the world by trekking through 10 countries in 10 months, hoping the journey would heal him. He traveled down ancient paths through changing landscapes, and the charity of everyday strangers kept him and his hope alive.

He finally arrived in Jerusalem, and though neither his physical nor emotional journey ended in the climax he’d hoped, he’d gained understanding. I’ve experienced the clarity that can come with putting physical distance between you and your issues, and though they say not to run away from your problems, sometimes a really long walk can actually help.

By Guy Stagg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Crossway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner - Edward Stanford Travel Memoir of the Year 2019.
Shortlisted - Rathbones Folio Prize, Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and Somerset Maugham Award 2019.

'An extraordinary travelogue, strange and brilliant' - i

In 2013 Guy Stagg walked from Canterbury to Jerusalem. Though a non-believer, he began the pilgrimage after suffering several years of mental illness, hoping the ritual would heal him. For ten months he hiked alone on ancient paths, crossing ten countries and more than 5,500 kilometres. Travelling without support, he had to rely each night on the charity of strangers.

The Crossway is an account of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Christian pilgrimages, the Middle Ages, and non-binary gender topics and characters?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Christian pilgrimages, the Middle Ages, and non-binary gender topics and characters.

Christian Pilgrimages Explore 8 books about Christian pilgrimages
The Middle Ages Explore 408 books about the Middle Ages
Non-Binary Gender Topics And Characters Explore 35 books about non-binary gender topics and characters