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Off The Road: A Modern Day Walk Down The Pilgrim's Route Into Spain
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Off The Road: A Modern Day Walk Down The Pilgrim's Route Into Spain

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  419 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Off the Road is a delightfully irreverent tour of the 500-mile pilgrimage route from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain--sights people believe God once touched. Harper's contributing editor Jack Hitt writes of the many colorful pilgrims he met along the way, in this offbeat journey through landscape and belief.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Simon & Schuster
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(showing 1-30 of 1,253)
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Claire
Jul 12, 2011 Claire rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-reading
UGH. This is one of those books that I forced myself to finish so I could truly say I hated it. It gets one star for the genuinely interesting historical interludes, but every other aspect was horrible. I hate to say it, because he did accomplish an incredible physical/psychological feat, but the problem with this book is Jack Hitt. He is simultaneously one of the most smurfy and condescending writers I have come across. If it had been a straight-forward history I would have loved it; as it is, ...more
Mike
Oct 01, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story by a 35 year old writer from NYC who, he says, is starting to have a mid-life crisis. At 35. For somewhat nebulous reasons, he decides to become a pilgrim and walk 600 miles or so of the medieval route across Spain travelled by many over the ages. As he puts it, he was simply "a guy out for some cosmically serious fresh air."

His story of his trek is pretty darn funny, but also pretty darn serious. He talks about the history of the route and the places he visits along the way, his religio
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treehugger
Sep 08, 2007 treehugger rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: spainophiles, history buffs, hiking fans
Shelves: non-fiction
I REALLY want to do this walk, and this book was a great combination of modern day walking challenges and in-depth history about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the people who built it, the people who walked it 1000 years ago, and the leaders who used the presence of such a holy pilgrimage to their political advantage.

The author was smart, funny, and knowledgeable but down to earth and likeable.
Denise
May 17, 2014 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What separates a realistic memoir about the Camino from a fictional account: how many metaphors one can use to describe the pain in one's feet:

"My feet are damp blocks of pain all day long and all night long, too. I haven't merely a blister or even a lot of blisters. I have constellations of them. They seem to have a life of their own, like cellular automata. Little blister outposts form and send inquiring tunnels to make contact with the others. Recent reconnaissance has scouted the tender fles
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Jenni
Oct 12, 2013 Jenni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my third account I've read on the pilgrimage but so far this is one of the best narratives I've read on the personal journey walking the Camino de Santiago. The novel is rich with history and background information, giving me much more insight into the story of Roland, and Basques, that region in Spain, and (new for me, as my other readings hadn't discussed this much) the Knights Templar.

When he's not delving into the history of the region, the author is entertaining his readers with his
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amy
Jul 31, 2014 amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit
I really enjoy Jack Hitt's work on This American Life. I am fascinated by his life, his perspective, and his style.

It's rare that I don't finish a book, but I just couldn't engage with this one. This is how I read it: "Hey, I'm kinda bored, and there's this thing I'm mildly interested in doing for reasons I can't exactly articulate. I got a book deal to bankroll it...so here it is. Enjoy."

I realize that this pilgrimage is an extremely old tradition, and perhaps this is an idiosyncratic, post-m
...more
Nonsequiteuse
Jul 06, 2010 Nonsequiteuse rated it it was amazing
I've walked the road to Santiago, so I can say this with absolute authority: the more ridiculous anything you read in this book sounds to you, the more emphatically I must assure you that it is TRUE.

Jesus Jato of Villafranca del Bierzo? As wild as the book reports, and as mystical and wonderful, too. He adjusted my energy, or healed my aura, or did something to make my knee go back to its normal size after it swelled along the road to O Cebrero.

I realize laugh-out-loud funny is quite the clich
...more
Carolyn
Apr 05, 2008 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all
I learned a tremendous amount of sutff from this book, about the Bible, about religion, about history, about languages, about geography, about humanity and more. I highly recommend this book. Jack Hitt is intelligent, witty, earthbound and a fabulous writer.
Rory Tiernan
May 18, 2015 Rory Tiernan rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-to-read
Much like the walk itself the book starts slow and lags in places but as a whole a good read whether for the hell of it or as research material etc
Harry Allagree
May 16, 2013 Harry Allagree rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now & then I finish a book & say to myself, "I needed to read this!" Such is Jack Hitt's wonderful chronicle of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage has fascinated me for many years, and I only regret not being able to experience it firsthand while I was in Spain for a couple of weeks in 1998.

Jack Hitt is one of the most descriptive, as well as entertaining, writers I've encountered. It's almost as if you're right there with him & his companions each step o
...more
Diane
Feb 04, 2013 Diane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
In the 1990’s, the author walked the 500 mile pilgrim road through Spain to Santiago de Compestela, one of three major pilgrim walks in Europe. I loved the introduction – it ended up being my favorite part of the book. He talks about not really knowing why he wants to do this walk – he only knows it is not for religious purposes and he ends up deciding he wants to do the pilgrimage to discover why is is doing the pilgrimage.

Hitt has clearly an interest in both the historic and the mythic aspect
...more
Julia
Jan 07, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While this is a book about a walk in Europe, it is an inimitably Southern book in style. The book drawls, but has many ups and downs on its way to the end, which isn't entirely an end, but just a pause where the teller stopped talking. Jack Hitt's voice, if you know him from later writings or radio work, isn't as fully developed here as it will be just 5-6 years after the book was published, but you can hear what will be. Some of the "information" portions go on a little long here, making the re ...more
Brendan
Dec 31, 2012 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fifth book I've read recently about the Camino. Compared to the others, this is less about the mystical experiences of the author and certainly not a guide book. Rather, it explains the history of the Camino written in an easy flowing style that is part novel and part journal. This is not a "how to" book but more like a "how I did it" and how others have done it over the centuries. I plan on hiking the 500 miles of the Camino, also known as "The Way," next year and found this book a ...more
Laura Smith
I have a rule that I don't watch movies until I've read the book, but I didn't follow my rule on this one. I watched the movie The Way, which I loved. I watched it over and over again, and when I learned there was a book that inspired it I was eager to read. Off the Road did inspire this move, but they are not the same story. I kept flipping through the pages looking for characters from the movie who never appeared. That being said, it is an interesting read about El Camino, the pilgrimage walk ...more
Patricia
Mar 28, 2015 Patricia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I've read four books about the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela and none of them have satisfied my curiosity about the pilgrimage, so consequently I'm not willing to say, "this is a good book," about any of the four. Jack Hitt may have explained what's going on in the epilogue to this book when he likens trying to tell about the walk to a parent trying to talk about something adorable or wonderful their young child has done.

He writes: "Pilgrimages are all about finding a good chunk of choriz
...more
Kaleb Brown
for my taste, Jack Hitt uses too much background knowledge about each of the places he visits. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, however i did not like ti too much. But i did like the way he described his experiences along the road, even though i do not agree with the purpose with which he went. He wanted to write a book, however i think that a pilgrimage should not be taken to lightly, as a pilgrimage like that is sacred to many religions and has a different meaning to everybody who has ...more
Dianne Oliver
Sep 27, 2015 Dianne Oliver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting info, history. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the cloisters in New York, the origin of Friday the 13th, (having to do with the Knights Templars, and their mass entrapment and torture by the king-the ironically named, Beautiful) as well as the history of relics and ancient legends of the various areas of Spain. I also found quite amusing, at a low point along the trail, where he became a bit disillusioned of finding his purpose of pilgrimage, his theory that the apple of ...more
Rich
Mar 30, 2015 Rich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A splendid true tale of a US journalist's pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in NW Spain to the Cathedral dedicated to St James. Written in 1994. He is remarkably knowledgeable about the Catholic faith, the history of pilgrimage, and the story behind St James. I was pleased but surprised that a "yank" should have that knowledge (I am in the UK). There are racy accounts of meeting up with dozens of other pilgrims, from a Flemish film crew to some Welsh folk with a mule - this is the best part ...more
Karencita
As an admirer of the movie, The Way, and inspired by the movie to walk the Camino (at least part of it!) myself, I was interested to read the book that inspired many of the stories and characters in the movie. This is a witty, insightful and informative book. Hitt easily flows between observations of the road, personal reflections and history lessons seamlessly - like a conversation with a good friend. Hitt's characterizations of the people and situations he meets along the Camino are hilarious ...more
Jason Pryde
Having read this twice now, I was better able to extract the value for a would be pilgrim and discount (somewhat) the authors maudlin neurosis.
I don't believe that his particular experience is necessarily typical. He tries too hard to generalize the meaning, purpose, personal impact of a pilgrimage to Compostella de Santiago. Its almost like he sought out the most extreme personalities and experiences to make an interesting book.
None the less, I learned alot of the history, the value of being
...more
Alisa
Sep 05, 2014 Alisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great subject. Dry writing.
Janet
Jan 25, 2016 Janet rated it really liked it
In the interests of full disclosure, during the 1980s, Jack Hitt worked as a journalism student intern at the newspaper where I was a copy editor. He was a wonderful writer and an all around nice guy. I have followed his work ever since in the New York Times, Harper's and NPR. I knew he had written this book, but never felt the need to read it {I had read an excerpt in the New York Times magazine years ago} until one of my children announced they would be walking the Camino. So, I found Jack's w ...more
Carrie
This book has been so much more than I expected. Hitt is about 35 years old when he decides to up and walk to Santiago de Compostela. He seems to have many and few reasons, none of which he can articulate to inquirers. He starts with a visit to the Cloisters in New York City. After months of planning, he's finally on his way to France to start off this medieval pilgrimage.[return][return]His narration is rich with history about Charlemagne and Roland, the Knights of Templar, the Basques, and so ...more
Wanda
May 24, 2015 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
24 MAY 2015 - adding this to TBR because I stumbled upon a film on Showtime titled The Way. The film and this book are somehow connected. Only 45 minutes into the film and I have already cried. This is a film which can be viewed by all family members (only one scene (so far) contains a bare side-view of a man's buttocks - nothing else!).

I have always been fascinated by The Way of Saint James and by those who have undertaken the journey. Deep respect and heart-felt admiration.
Laurel
Feb 16, 2013 Laurel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book for the combination of those who enjoy European travel and who wish to learn more about the Christian faith. While the author acknowledges that church attendance in Europe has decreased, don't expect politically correct whitewashing: this is a story of a Christian pilgrimage to a historically Christian site. Emilio Estevez acknowledges that his movie The Way is based upon selected parts of this book, some quoted word for word. In a delightful turnabout, the movie character based u ...more
Cynthia
The author gets too easily sidetracked, not only on his pilgrimage, but also in his writing. I enjoy learning things as I read, such as the legend of Roland and Charlemagne, but he went on a little too long in my opinion. I found myself counting the pages until it was over. I don't enjoy his writing as much as many people do. I only got about 100 pages in, and I returned it. Life is too short - and there are too many great books out there - to read this one.
B
Of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage stories, this is the best one I've read so far. Although his walk was in the 1990's, it is timeless in its tales of other pilgrims and the historical information he imparts about the Knights of Templar, romanesque churches, etc. For anyone thinking of doing this long and difficult walk, this is a book they should read before going.
Patricia
I really enjoyed most of this book, but there were times that the author went on and on about more historical background of towns and relics etc when I wished he would have spoke more about his own actual experiences walking El Camino de Santiago. I know he was just trying to fill in background information and some of that is necessary, but I really wanted more of his feelings and impressions. Overall though, an enjoyable book.
h
Mar 16, 2008 h rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, travel
this was definitely a right-book-at-the-right-moment read for me. i'm having a mini-obsession with the idea of pilgrimage, and i've long been obsessed with spain, which is why i bought this book at random from amazon. hitt's storytelling style is comfortable, like hanging out at a bar with someone. he's at his best describing people, places, events. although the book would seem odd without his admissions and internal monologue, they're the lease interesting parts. his historical anecdotes are wo ...more
Christine Sinclair
This book is eccentric, entertaining, witty and wonderful. Jack Hitt hits The Road on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostelo in Spain, with often hilarious and sometimes revelatory results. This memoir was the source material for the movie The Way, with Martin Sheen, which made a big impression on me. (We met a woman at the Lisbon airport who had walked the road; very interesting person.) Check out this good read!
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Hitt was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where he attended the Porter-Gaud School. He got his start in journalism as editor of the "Paper Clip," the literary magazine of Porter-Gaud's first through fifth grades. According to his biography, he published "some of the finest haiku penned by well-off pre-teens in all of South Carolina's lowcountry".

Since 1996, Hitt has also been a contr
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