This guidebook is a MUST if you are going to walk the Camino de Santiago Francés route. John provides some overview about The Way of St. James and preparation tips; however, this book is most useful “during” your Camino. He breaks down the journey into 33 stages that are very consumable for most people, and provides maps, elevation charts, a descriptions of most alburgues (hostels) along the way. His enhanced but brief descriptions of the cultural background and history of places of interest along the way are helpful. The maps are bit out of perspective for the larger towns and cities, so see my suggestion below for more accurate city navigation guides. If you see someone on the Camino carrying this book, you know they speak English. This book does weigh 10.6 oz (.017 kg), so after you have read or finished with pages, rip them out and throw away. I actually purchased two books: one to use during the Camino and ripped away pages as I completed each stage, and the other I left home for a keepsake.
The Camino Francés – A Wise Pilgrim Guide to the Camino de Santiago by A Wise Pilgrim
This book was authored by a pilgrim who walked the Camino Francés route in 2003 and launched this book in 2008. In 2012 an app was created to provide the same information in a portable and interactive mode, Camino Francés – A Wise Pilgrim Guide. (I provide a review on this site in my apps section, Camino Concierge Apps.) In addition, other books and apps were born by this author to guide pilgrims through additional popular Camino pathways. What I like about this book and app is the extremely legible and modern maps, small city or large scale, and you can reference alternate routes. Included is elevation profiles, comprehensive accommodation directory with offered amenities, a little bit of history, and some practical trail advice. Many experienced pilgrims have been raving about this book and app. You might consider purchasing the John Brierley book above, A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean • Roncesvalles • Santiago, for most English speaking pilgrims will have it, and then supplement your resource library with the Camino Francés – A Wise Pilgrim Guide app on your mobile phone, which won’t add any weight.
Camino Journey Books
To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela by Kevin A. Todd
I enjoyed this beautifully written memoir of Kevin’s journey on the Camino de Santiago Francés route. I actually purchased the Kindle version of his book, downloaded on my iPhone, and read each day after my walk. He is an elegant writer and you can see, smell, hear and taste his pilgrimage, seen through the eyes of a Catholic Priest. Each afternoon as I read a chapter, I felt I had just walked along side Father Todd and experienced my day all over again. You can enjoy this book before your Camino to understand more about the journey and characters you will be meeting, during your Camino, or even cherish after your journey to remember your own adventure. When you arrive in Santiago and enter the Cathedral (entrance closest to the fountain), look for the Field of Stars artwork on the wall in the upper-left.
The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by Andrew McCarthy
I read an excerpt of Andrew’s book and just loved his story. Here he was, staring at a cute girl in the bookstore and got caught. To cover himself, he quickly picked up a book. Low and behold it was a book about the Camino de Santiago – his Camino began. I truly appreciate his incredible honesty, sense of adventure, and spirit seeking soul. This personal memoir of self discovery extends beyond the Camino boundaries to Patagonia, the Amazon, Kilimanjaro and more. If you are at a fork in the road in life, you may enjoy reading this book and joining Andrew in his journey.
You can read an excerpt of Andrew’s book here: The Longest Way Home excerpt
More resources on the way…