The best books about Christian pilgrimages

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Christian pilgrimages and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Crossway

By Guy Stagg,

Book cover of The Crossway

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

By Stefanie Wilson, James Wilson,

Book cover of The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

What is my book about?

Part travel, part romance, part failing at life, The Backpack Years intertwines two memoirs, charting Stef and James’s six-year journey from happily wandering to miserably settled and back again.

Stef left America to study abroad in Spain, letting loose and falling for a handsome local and travel. Travel won out. Fueled by debt and a deteriorating relationship with his father, James fled to Australia and found a better life. When Stef and James eventually meet at an Irish pub in Sydney, they ditch the single life to forge a path together. Spanning thirteen countries and four continents, The Backpack Years is a story about how far we’re willing to go to be with the one we love.

The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago

By David M. Gitlitz, Linda Kay Davidson,

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

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.


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 Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela

By William Melczer,

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

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.


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.

Pilgrim Stories

By Nancy Louise Frey,

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

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. 


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.

Pilgrimage in Medieval England

By Diana Webb,

Book cover of Pilgrimage in Medieval England

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!


Who am I?

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... 


I wrote...

Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

By ffiona Perigrinor,

Book cover of Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

What is my book about?

This is the tale of two fourteenth-century Norfolk women – Margery the mistress, the privileged daughter of the Mayor of Bishop’s Lynn and her maidservant, a nameless orphan, who travel together on a pilgrimage through England, then overseas to Jerusalem. But they’re bound by something more mysterious than service, which unravels as they face the perils of travel, heresy trials, and mutual betrayal.

Margery Kempe was a real person. She dictated her book to her priest in the 1440s and it’s available today in paperback. But it’s infuriating (as she was) because it says little about her family (she had fourteen children) or how she travelled. So I asked her maidservant to write her own book and discovered she had a very different tale to tell.

The Age of Pilgrimage

By Jonathan Sumption,

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

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.


Who am I?

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... 


I wrote...

Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

By ffiona Perigrinor,

Book cover of Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

What is my book about?

This is the tale of two fourteenth-century Norfolk women – Margery the mistress, the privileged daughter of the Mayor of Bishop’s Lynn and her maidservant, a nameless orphan, who travel together on a pilgrimage through England, then overseas to Jerusalem. But they’re bound by something more mysterious than service, which unravels as they face the perils of travel, heresy trials, and mutual betrayal.

Margery Kempe was a real person. She dictated her book to her priest in the 1440s and it’s available today in paperback. But it’s infuriating (as she was) because it says little about her family (she had fourteen children) or how she travelled. So I asked her maidservant to write her own book and discovered she had a very different tale to tell.

New book lists related to Christian pilgrimages

All book lists related to Christian pilgrimages

Bookshelves related to Christian pilgrimages