On the Road with Saint Augustine

A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts

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Publishers Weekly starred review

One of the Top 100 Books and One of the 5 Best Books in Religion for 2019,
Publishers Weekly

Christianity Today
2020 Book Award Winner (Spiritual Formation)

Outreach 2020 Resource of the Year (Spiritual Growth)

Foreword INDIES 2019 Honorable Mention for Religion

This is not a book about Saint Augustine. In a way, it's a book Augustine has written about each of us. Popular speaker and award-winning author James K. A. Smith has spent time on the road with Augustine, and he invites us to take this journey too, for this ancient African thinker knows far more about us than we might expect.

Following Smith's successful You Are What You Love, this book shows how Augustine can be a pilgrim guide to a spirituality that meets the complicated world we live in. Augustine, says Smith, is the patron saint of restless hearts--a guide who has been there, asked our questions, and knows our frustrations and failed pursuits. Augustine spent a lifetime searching for his heart's true home and he can help us find our way. "What makes Augustine a guide worth considering," says Smith, "is that he knows where home is, where rest can be found, what peace feels like, even if it is sometimes ephemeral and elusive along the way." Addressing believers and skeptics alike, this book shows how Augustine's timeless wisdom speaks to the worries and struggles of contemporary life, covering topics such as ambition, sex, friendship, freedom, parenthood, and death. As Smith vividly and colorfully brings Augustine to life for 21st-century readers, he also offers a fresh articulation of Christianity that speaks to our deepest hungers, fears, and hopes.


Heart on the Run
How to Hit the Road
Augustine Our Contemporary
How to Find Yourself
A Refugee Spirituality
How to Live Between
Detours on the Way to Myself
How to Escape
How to Aspire
How to Connect
How to Be Dependent
How to Belong
How to Believe
How to Be a Character
How to Protest
How to Be Broken
How to Hope


"On the Road with Saint Augustine is a learned, large-hearted, and quite lively introduction to Augustine, or to life by way of Augustine, or to God by way of both. The variety of Smith's references is astonishing, as is the seamless way he moves among them. I expect many modern readers will find themselves--and, crucially, much more than themselves--in this book."

Christian Wiman, author of My Bright Abyss and Every Riven Thing

"Augustine of Hippo is the patron saint of restless hearts. Now James K. A. Smith, long one of our most interesting theological thinkers, both orthodox and outlier, reintroduces this figure who is at once strange and familiar, ancient and contemporary. This book is a journey into the greatest journey of all, and a delight to read. Highly recommended."

Krista Tippett, founder and CEO, The On Being Project; host, On Being; curator, The Civil Conversations Project

"Fascinating, engrossing, insightful, beautifully written, and often brilliant, this new book will open up the story and spirituality of St. Augustine to a new generation of readers and seekers."

James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

"As the author well says, this is not a book about St. Augustine. But it certainly is a guide for reading Augustine as he wrote and would probably prefer to be read, with a restless heart."

Justo L. González, author of The Mestizo Augustine

"It is a fundamental Augustinian trope that we are not home. Here Jamie Smith riffs with unrivaled depth and texture on what it means to be in via--to be on the way--to be not at home. I am grateful, and I will keep this book with me as I pilgrim."

Lauren F. Winner, author of The Dangers of Christian Practice and Still

"Smith opens this book by placing the contemporary culture of seeking the real, authentic self alongside the works of Augustine; then he continues by placing our contemporary experience alongside Augustine's biography; both moves yield a fund of interesting insights."

Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age

"This book is James K. A. Smith's Born to Run. It's the story of the journey we are all on. For Smith, Saint Augustine is the perfect navigator. He's familiar with that 'highway jammed with broken heroes,' because he knows what it feels like to be a heart on the run. If you lust for the highway and feel the engine idling deep inside, your ride is here. Augustine is in the passenger seat with the map of our heart unfolded on his lap, waiting to take us home."

Bob Crawford, member of The Avett Brothers and cohost of The Road to Now podcast

"On the Road with Saint Augustine is a spiritual reflection that reminds us why the ancient saint is not only essential for us but inescapable. With Augustine as guide, Smith takes the reader on a tour of the human heart. Profound, personal, and fast-paced, the book will nourish readers in almost any spiritual state."

Kyle Harper, senior vice president, provost, and professor of classics and letters, University of Oklahoma

The Author

  1. James K. A. Smith
    Seth Thompson, © 2017 Green Frog Photo

    James K. A. Smith

    James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is a popular speaker and the award-winning author of a number of influential books, including Desiring the Kingdom, How (Not) to Be Secular, You Are What You Love, On the Road with...

    Continue reading about James K. A. Smith


One of the Top 100 Books and One of the 5 Best Books in Religion for 2019, Publishers Weekly
Christianity Today
2020 Book Award Winner (Spiritual Formation)
Outreach 2020 Resource of the Year (Spiritual Growth)
Foreword INDIES 2019 Honorable Mention for Religion

"In this engrossing reflection on the human spiritual journey, philosophy professor Smith (You Are What You Love) uses the fourth-century Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine, as a guide for considering complex, timeless issues. . . . . Seeking Augustine's wisdom on questions--such as 'what do I want when I want to be noticed?' or 'to belong?' or 'to be rational?'--Smith illuminates Augustine's certainty that people find freedom and truth when they find themselves in God's story. By following Augustine's model and sharing his own faith journey, Smith makes Augustine's guidance accessible to a new generation of seekers."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[Smith] employs St. Augustine of Hippo as a guide and conduit to discuss timeless, complex issues. . . . Informed by Smith's deep erudition, this deeply felt travelogue is equally spry and profound."

Publishers Weekly (a Best Book of 2019 in Religion)

"On the Road with Saint Augustine is a rare book. It's weighty, beautiful, and insightful. I opened this book expecting to learn from and about Augustine, but I didn't expect that he would become my traveling companion. We have more in common with this ancient African monk than we realize."

Darryl Dash,

Christianity Today

"[Smith] uses Augustine to survey the human heart and its multitude of longings, exploring themes like freedom, ambition, mothers and fathers, friendship, and death. The underlying message? You are not alone. Whatever you may feel--whether it's conflict over ambition, complicated feelings towards your parents, or the desire to live a more meaningful life--your feelings are perfectly normal. Augustine and Smith (who shares candidly from his own story) make for wise and generous guides."

Mike Cosper,

Christianity Today

"[This book] can both orient and inform a lifelong journey of spiritual formation. Smith's Augustine becomes our guide to navigating 10 perennial questions of the human quest, from freedom to ambition, sex to friendship. This book is a profoundly Christian one, coming alongside us to warn about pitfalls and wrong turns, while clearly directing us to our true home. In the end, it's about a Father who doesn't merely wait for us, but comes running to welcome us back."

Glenn Paauw,


"Dressed in lovely prose, the book . . . consider[s] how its central Roman African bishop addressed fundamental desires found in every human heart. Avoiding didactic pitfalls, Smith displays a willingness to dialogue with thinkers who may bump against his own convictions. . . . On the Road with Saint Augustine teems with beautiful spiritual insights. Here is meat and bread to satisfy the earnest and seeking postmodern soul."

Meagan Logsdon,

Foreword Reviews

"Some of the deepest questions of my heart somehow found their way into Smith's book, and Augustine painted a way forward for my own heart's journey. . . . The best part of the book may be the way [Smith] writes. He personally inhabits his subject matter, the way Augustine did. I'd encourage you to read On the Road with Saint Augustine with your imagination and affections. Allow the book to probe into your most difficult questions. Perhaps it will help you reimagine your journey to the homeland you've always longed for."

Mark D. Allen,

The Gospel Coalition

"This truly is one of the most highly anticipated and certainly will be one of the most significant spirituality books of the year. . . . [It is] both learned and fun; aware of ancient insights, contemporary realities, and the pop culture voices who remind us of our current age. It is rigorous, to be sure, but lively, moving from Augustine and his ancient contemporaries to Jack Kerouac to Jay Z to Heidegger to AA meetings to Camus to the films of Wes Anderson and back to Sal Paradise. It's a philosophical road trip as [Smith] takes us throughout Italy and offers glimpses of his own life. . . . [This book] deserves to be taken seriously."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books