Book review: The Best Way – El Camino de Santiago
Allow me to preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of Bill Walker’s storytelling and how he weaves a book about hiking together. I’ve also found Bill to be quite an engaging fellow as I’ve written about him on this blog before, both with book reviews and a story I did about him and hiking long distance.
I didn’t hate his latest book by any means. In fact, it was through him that I first discovered what the heck the El Camino de Santiago was. Without doing the story about him, I might not know much about this hike, outside of the 2010 film The Way, which starred Martin Sheen.
Still, when doing book reviews, I like to be as honest as possible.
There were moments during my reading of The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago where I grumbled about it and wondered if I would plod through. Too, there were times when the book breezed by and captured my attention and imagination like Walker’s past books. The fact that there were parts that made me feel fully opposite of others made this a maddening read.
One thing I like about Walker’s books are how well he describes things. He takes basic things and makes them sound wonderful. His descriptions of the people he meets on his jaunts make you feel like you are there standing next to him and seeing these people.
The way he writes about all the little towns and places he stays and eats is very strong. When I finished this book, I had a great feel of this trip and what a person must go through to do this hike. And, if you’ve read other Walker-written books, you’ll know that you will know all about the hike when the book is finished, which is more than I can say for some other hiking books I’ve read.
Walker’s style is easy to get into. It’s conversational and you can feel like he’s telling you a story. When dealing with things such as long-distance hikes, that’s important. The reason being? Most of us won’t do a long-distance hike, so to get the full feel of what one has to go through on these hikes.
Walker is colorful, truthful and doesn’t ever really hold back punches, which I fully appreciate. It’s nice to get a story that tells the truth of the hike, whether it be good or bad.
The one big thing Walker has done here? He’s made me really want to think about doing this hike. I’ve often thought about wanting to do a long-distance hike, but I also realized that the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail likely wouldn’t be in my future. The El Camino has a lot more meaning to it, in my eyes, and it’s something I’ll definitely be researching.
I don’t speak Spanish.
That also means that I don’t read Spanish. For those who do, kudos. But I can’t and don’t.
There are parts of this book where Walker writes his conversations that he held in Spanish. I fully respect that he can speak, write and understand that language. And there are times when he translated what he said. But, there were also times he didn’t.
All it takes is in the beginning to note that many conversations were in Spanish. I don’t have to visually see it to be able to imagine it. In fact, it makes it harder for me to continue because it makes the reading choppy and not very enjoyable. One thing I’ve always believed is by making a reader stop and scratch their head when reading, you risk losing them.
I was almost lost.
In Walker’s previous two books, I flew through them in a few days. This one took a while. Mainly because when I hit these Spanish speaking parts or something else, I’d drift off and stay away for a day or so.
The other thing is the history lessons. Look, I love history. It was always a favorite in high school and college and I often took elective classes because of this. And I don’t mind reading about history.
But there were times where Walker went deeply into history and it took up a chapter at a time. I don’t want all of that. Personally, I’d want to see it in a shorter version. Books like this are ones I get for the stories about the trip. The people, the events, everything else. I appreciate some of the history, especially because of how long and how historical this hike is. But there were times where it seemed like it was being forced to me more than intertwined with the story of Walker’s hike.
Other may see it fully differently, and I respect that.
This was a good read for the most part.
As I noted earlier in the review, I like Walker’s style and his storytelling is some of the best I’ve read when it comes to long-distance hiking and I’ve read quite a few books about the subject.
Still, it wasn’t perfect.
Of the three Walker books I’ve read, this is probably my least favorite overall, yet it’s probably my second favorite in regard to subject. There are parts of this one that really made me think it was going to outdo his other books, but then parts where I wanted to close the book and move on.
If you are a fan of Walker’s writing, I would highly encourage you to grab a copy and read it. If you are a long-distance hiking fan or have interest in the El Camino, again, grab a copy.
I’m not sure this book will be something everyone would enjoy, but it’s still worth the read as Walker gives you a good look at the El Camino, it’s history and what it’s like to go through the hike.
This book was, for the most part, a solid read. It had some downs, but more ups. I know most major sites won’t give half-stars, but that’s their choice, not mine. For this review, I’ll give the book a solid 3.5 stars and highly encourage people to read it.
On the web
See more about Walker at his website.
If you are interested in purchasing The Best Way or any of Walker’s books, feel free to click on any of these links:
- The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago (book or Kindle)
- Skywalker: Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (book or Kindle) (My original review)
- Skywalker: Close encounters on the Appalachian Trail (book or Kindle) (My original review)
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