Book Reviews…

Since publication less than twelve months ago, the reviews for my Camino book – The Way, My Wayoverall have been very positive.

I’ve received 65 ***** (five) star reviews, four **** (four) star reviews, one *** star, one ** star, and recently I received a shocker of a * star review. Here is that review:

1.0 out of 5 stars Self-Indulgent Whining, July 1, 2014
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Way, My Way (Kindle Edition)
This is an awful book. It is one non-stop egoistic moan from beginning to end. Mr. Bennett appears to have been singularly ill-prepared, both physically and mentally for what is after all, a long-distance walk – not an ascent of Everest. In the process he comes across as a self-indulgent bore, with no sense of irony as to why other pilgrims avoid him – and not a very nice person, right up to the end, when he is rude to another walker who is interested in his photography.Don’t waste your money. This is definitely an instance when his publisher should have had more sense.

The reviewer calls me, amongst other things, a self-indulgent bore and not a very nice person. Ahem. I’m sure my mother would beg to differ. I was going to say: I’m sure my wife would beg to differ but I might just check in with her first…

I disagree though that I was singularly ill-prepared. I’d prepared thoroughly. Perhaps too thoroughly.

I’d driven most of the route on a prior trip to Spain, I’d read just about everything there was to read, I’d watched documentaries and YouTube videos, and of course the film The Way. And I’d trained for about eighteen months – testing boots, backpacks, on different terrain, over short and long distances etc. I felt that I’d prepared as best one can when undertaking such a spiritual journey.

Anyway, I feel like I’m defending myself. I shouldn’t have to defend myself.

Then today I received an email out of the blue from a lady named Rebecca Bishop from Washington State. She’d just finished the book and had taken the trouble to track down my email address, to let me know how much she’d enjoyed it.

She then wrote this five star review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read. The best Camino memoir by far!!!, July 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Way, My Way (Paperback)
I just finished this book a few hours ago. I have, to coin a phrase from a new Camino acquaintance, the Camino Virus. I am obsessed with it. I have been reading memoirs and I believe this was my 6th one in about 4 1/2 months. Everyone has a different Camino experience and every book is different, but this was by far the best. The author is honest about his shortcomings and his desire to overcome them on the Camino. Sometimes he is successful and sometimes not so much, but he tells the story with humor and in a writing style that drew me in and made laugh and touched me deep down in that hopeful Camino heart that can’t wait to arrive in St. Jean Pied de Port. It is a story of transformation and self-discovery. I would recommend this book to anyone who has, or who might, or who will walk the Camino de Santiago. I might even have to read this one again before I leave in 412 days! (But who’s counting?)

It’s as though Rebecca Bishop and Geoffrey Collier had read different books.

I don’t get it.

When you write something that’s very personal, as this book was for me, then you open yourself up for all sorts of criticism. Especially on the internet. I’m used to it from my film work. I’ve had good reviews and bad reviews. You only ever remember the bad reviews!

Reviews aside, this was a book I had to write, to complete my Camino. I’d come back from the pilgrimage with a lot of deep issues unresolved. For me, the only way I could find resolution was to write about my experiences, and in writing about them it was like I’d lain down on a psychiatrist’s couch. In having to examine them through the rigours of writing, I found a certain clarity.

So I wrote this book for myself. To help me work out my stuff. What’s been pleasing lately though is that I’ve heard the book has impacted on several other people in ways I never could have expected.

I won’t go into details because of privacy concerns, however I’ve been thrilled to hear that several people who are going through some personal hardships have read the book and it’s inspired them to undertake their own Camino. And having made that decision their hardships are already starting to melt away.

I’ve also heard that a few people who have completed the Camino and read the book have gained a new perspective in the light of my experiences and insights.

What I’ve discovered is that walking the Camino is just the beginning of your pilgrimage. It doesn’t start in St. Jean Pied de Port or Pamplona or Burgos or Astorga – in many ways it actually starts when you get home.

That’s when it gets really difficult.

shells on walls

27 thoughts on “Book Reviews…

  1. Yes books are very personal, I think often you meet what you are seeking, in life, in friends, and in in books. I felt that your book was one of the best of 5 Camino books I read. It was filled with interesting info and incidents and the best of all your intimate awareness and revealing of personal transformations. (I still can’t get through Paul Coehlo’s book, and that is so highly regarded! ) So don’t over thinking this.
    xox, hi to Jenn!


    • Hi Kathryn –

      yes I didn’t think the Paul Coehlo book was as coherent as The Alchemist. But you know he wrote The Alchemist after walking the Camino – and he says that it had a big impact on his writing of that book.

      Jen is sitting beside me on her computer right now researching St. Francis of Assisi! I’ll say hello to her from you and Michael. Say hello to him for me too!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Say hi to Jen from us too!
    65 five star
    4 four stars and
    1 one star
    That says it all!
    PS: Could you take back some od the sunshine you left up here? It’s 90 something degrees all week and most of us don’t have air conditioning here. We are melting!
    In winter, spring and fall we rust!
    Lynda and Dale


    • Hey Lynda –

      sorry about the sunshine!!


      It’s sunny here too in Mudgee, but bloody cold! Today the top temp was 45F I think!

      Jen is sitting right beside me here – I’ll give her a big hello from you and Dale. Oh and tell Dale I went to a Swannies match last night at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and we won by 71 points. It wasn’t a game, it was a demolition!

      take care you two –

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve just come back after a weekend of celebrating Guru Poornima (a thank you to all your teachers) at Mangrove Ashram, where we had BOTH cold (icy early morning and late afternoon/evening and wonderfully warming, healing sun in between) and just wanted to add my thoughts to this vexing ‘incident’. I hope, Bill, you don’t take it too much to heart; like Lynda says, look at the stats, they surely tell their own story 🙂 The only irritating or sad thing about it is if people only happen to read that one bad (and frankly over the top on so many levels, eh?!) review and not one of the other 70 odd good ones. I’ve been frantically buying books for my Kindle for my 3 months away, amongst those another few on the Camino and I’ll certainly be reading yours again, Bill, as I think it stands as a real measuring stick for balance, information and just good Camino fun!! 🙂


    • Britta, you are so gorgeous, thank you!

      It sounds like you must have had an amazing time up at Mangrove Ashram. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go to. You must feel so… rejuvenated isn’t quite the word I guess, but so… connected and disconnected. If that makes sense.

      It’s funny because when your comment came in, I was just booking accommodation in Rishikesh and Dharamsala in September. Very much looking forward to getting back to India – and this time for filming for PGS!

      Have you heard from Jenny by the way? She must be finishing up soon… I bet she’s got some hooly dooly stories to tell!! 🙂


  4. Hi Bill, I understand how bad reviews can hurt but just look at the statistics. I read your book and loved it as I felt it was just such a personal account and not just another Camino travel guide. I walked from Ourense to Santiago de Compostela in May and as a first time walker I had a ball. It was far harder than I thought (who knew there would be so many hills – and the rain) but like you I had put in the hard preparation before starting. I felt your book encouranged me to try something so out of my comfort zone and I’m glad I did. Wish I could have walked with you through Portugal. Keep walking, keep writing and most of all keep smiling. Maddie


    • Dear Maddie –

      many thanks for your really kind words. I’m thrilled that you got something positive from the book.

      I’m actually more amused by that crook review rather than upset by it. I just find it interesting how different people can have such hugely differing views of the same piece of material.

      For me, it speaks more of the reviewer than it does on the book.

      Thanks again,


  5. Thanks for including me in your blog. I feel a bit famous now. No one is going to be able to speak to me. They will have to talk to my assistant first. Oh, wait, I don’t have an assistant. I guess some things never change. If your Camino is just getting started, then BUEN CAMINO!


      • Yes Rebecca! Welcome to the blog. Dale and I lived in Tacoma until we walked the Camino last year. Now we are in Puyallup just a few blocks from where they “picked up” the million and a half pound bridge over the Puyallup River and moved it 60 feet.


      • Thanks, Bill. Nice to be here. I looked for a video of you speaking so I could put the accent with the ‘voice.’ I love the accent. Of course, having been to Australia, it has always been my favorite. I tried to think of your accent as I was reading the book, but it has been so long since I was there that it was a bit difficult to keep up. Fun to try though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Rebecca,
          I read a bit of “your story” on your blog. Amazing 7 1/2 years to figure out the problem. Sounds like you had the same doctors my granddaughter has. Ten days ago she started having pains all across her stomach, vomited, diarrhea and 103 degree temperature. TEN days and they finally decided it was a ruptured appendix!!!. She could have died. She had surgery today. Flushed her innards and put in drain tubes and in a few weeks when the massive infection is gone she will go back and have the appendix taken out. Spending much time either at hospital or watching my grandson while my daughter has been living at the hospital around the clock.
          Point Defiance Park was our training ground before the Camino as we were living in Tacoma then. Too bad we weren’t in touch a month ago. Bill and Jen came through the area and we were able to spend a day with them. They both have AUSTRALIAN accents tee hee! Wonderful people.
          Will contact you in a few days when things settle down here now that surgery is done and she is on the mend. I have 3000 pictures and loads of stories about our Camino. When do you leave? So glad to have some one nearby that is obsessed about the Camino as we are.


          • I can¹t believe they were here!!! That just makes me sick!

            Thanks for reading some of it. NONE of my friends or family have even looked at it. Not that there is much there yet, but oh well.

            Yes it was a long slog, but it¹s long behind me. T


          • Rebecca
            Got a long day at the hospital tomorrow. But Sunday I will email you. We need to get together. When are you going? We hope to go on the Italy Camino next year. Hopefully several more after that. The Camino is like a virus. My family was like that until about two weeks before the trip. Afterwards they saw the film and now they all want to go. My grandsons insist on seeing “The Way” every time they come over – which is frequent. Bill’s book is great, huh!


          • I have 407 days before I leave for St. Jean. Plenty of time. I wish it were sooner, but I need the time to get the money together and make other preparations. Also, I want to go in the fall. I much prefer rain to 90 degree heat.

            OK. I’ll wait to hear from you. The best to your children and grandchildren.

            I loved his book!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sorry, I hit the button by accident. I¹ll start over:

            I can¹t believe they were here!!! That just makes me sick!

            Thanks for reading some of my blog. NONE of my friends or family have even looked at it. Not that there is much there yet, but oh well.

            Yes it was a long slog, but it¹s long behind me. That is very scary news about your granddaughter. Thanks goodness you know now what is going on.

            As you know now, Pt. Defiance is my favorite place. I was just there this evening after work. I have an international student that is with me and I picked her up and stopped for a bite and went to the park to eat our dinner.

            Well, I don¹t want to keep you. We can talk when things have calmed down. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Rebecca


  6. Hey, that’s exactly what I set out to say previously (ie your last sentence) but somehow got sidetracked in talk of weather and Ashrams. I sort of envy (actually, no, I REALLY envy) you going to Rishikesh and will be looking to hearing about it. Yes, Mangrove is sort of my spiritual rock. Don’t necessarily have to go there, but it’s really good to know it is there for me 🙂 Enjoy India!


    • Hi Britta, yes, I’m excited at the thought of going to Rishikesh. I’ve been there twice before, and Haridwar too, further down the Ganges. Both as you know are holy cities, particularly Rishikesh.

      Very excited to be going up to Dharamsala too- and to the Dalai Lama’s temple!



  7. The true irony is that this critic of your own sense of irony seems to have included 0% of that quality in his text and to have understood exactly the same proportion of yours …

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Hi Bill.

    Coincidentally I recently started rereading your book and am enjoying it thoroughly. I would not be able to name THE best book about the camino because every book is SO different, just like the caminos themselves. Your book is definitely one of the best books I’ve read. Yes, maybe you exposed some of your less stellar personality traits (I say this hypothetically only, so don’t ask me to identify them!), but you did it with humour and self awareness. That is what I try to do with myself in life. (I long since realized that it is easier and more fun than trying to change my personality!)

    I also re-read What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim by Jane Christmas, a published Canadian writer. She was both trashed and praised, but I rate her book as another “one of the best.” I reviewed three of her books on my blog Many people hated her (and/or the books – it is hard to tell) but I thought I would enjoy a few hours walk with her!

    Maybe one can be an interesting person, subject to extremes of praise and criticism, or a boring person who gets consistently neutral reactions. Which would you choose?

    – Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – Clare, I am who I am, and each day I try to aspire to something a little better. Sometimes I succeed, most often I fall short. Sometimes well short. And in that constant struggle, or tension, I seek. I sometimes seek in a public way, and that’s when I can draw the ire of others.

      As for a best book, I don’t think there’s such a thing, just like I don’t think there’s a best film. There is a book or a film that might resonate with you more than another, but that comes down to the individual’s universal world view, rather than the merit of the material.

      Is David Copperfield a better book than War and Peace? Is 2001 A Space Odyssey a better film than Casablanca? Is Beethoven’s 5th better than Chopin’s Nocturnes? It comes down to personal taste, ultimately.

      Thank you for raising these topics!



  9. Although a comment like that may be good to nudge us to a little more honest introspection and double checking of our own ego just as you did here (Hmmm, am I really a bore? Let me think about this. No, I am not.) The key is to let it go just like you let the “perfect pilgrim walking staff” go to take on modern walking poles. As an author myself, I now and then get a bad review and it can sting. But my favorite? Someone who wrote on my Facebook page that they used one of my recipes, ADDing in ingredients, and then complained about it. Uh………..hmmmmmmmmmm….that is not my problem. 😀


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