The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit (Paperback)

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The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit By Michael Finkel Cover Image

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit (Paperback)

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March 2017 Indie Next List


“This is the fascinating true story of Christopher Knight, who lived in the Maine woods for 27 years and survived by stealing supplies from vacation cabins while living in extreme conditions to avoid detection. After more than 1,000 burglaries, he was finally caught and partially reintegrated into society. His story is told together with the history of hermits and those who have sought solitude in order to have insight. Chris defies psychological profiling, and it's amazing Finkel was even able to interview him to write this book. This level of solitude would drive most people insane, but for Chris, it seems like an almost pure contemplative state. An excellent read.”
— Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI

Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List


“At 20 years old, Chris Knight drove into the Maine woods as far as his gas tank would take him, got out, threw his keys on the center console, walked into the forest, and lived in solitude for the next 27 years. While the story is largely the reader’s voyeuristic look at how he survived, this book is really an interesting commentary on introversion at its most extreme and its effects on an individual, a family, and society. It’s a fascinating read with references from history, philosophy, and psychology that don’t bog down the intensity of the story, which reads like a novel.”
— Jessica Perez , University Book Store (Mill Creek), Mill Creek, WA

Staff Reviews


This is the amazing story of Christopher Knight who in 1986 at the age of twenty left everyone and everything he knew and walked into the Maine woods to live a life of solitude. He did not speak to another human for twenty seven years and survived living in a tent in a secluded wooded area breaking into nearby cottages to steal food and supplies. When Knight was finally captured in 2013 breaking into a summer camp Michael Finkel approached him and was able to earn his trust in order to tell how Knight survived as a hermit for so long and perhaps why he chose to do it.

— From Cody's 2017 Picks

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality—not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

“A meditation on solitude, wildness and survival.” —The Wall Street Journal

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
Michael Finkel is the author of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, which was adapted into a 2015 major motion picture. He has written for National Geographic, GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in western Montana.

Product Details ISBN: 9781101911532
ISBN-10: 1101911530
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: January 30th, 2018
Pages: 224
Language: English
“A meditation on solitude, wildness and survival.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Astonishing. . . . An absorbing exploration of solitude and man’s eroding relationship with the natural world.” —The Atlantic

“Campfire-friendly and thermos-ready, easily drained in one warm, rummy slug. It also raises a variety of profound questions—about the role of solitude, about the value of suffering, about the diversity of human needs.” —The New York Times

“[A] fascinating story. . . . Finkel manages to pry powerful words from the man who may hold the world title for silent retreat.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Reveals, in vivid detail, how Christopher Knight escaped society more completely than most anybody else in human history.” —Outside

“[An] intriguing account of Knight’s capture and confessions.” —USA Today

“A story that takes the two primary human relationships—to nature and to one another—and deftly upends our assumptions about both. This was a breathtaking book to read and many weeks later I am still thinking about the implications for our society and—by extension—for my own life.” —Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

“As strong as Finkel’s storytelling instincts and prose are, his greatest feat in writing The Stranger in the Woods is the journalistic diligence and humanity he brought to Knight. . . . Through Finkel, Knight is able to speak up with his own voice at last.” —Paste

“[Knight’s] story will speak to anyone who has ever walked through the wilderness and considered, even for a moment, whether ever to leave.” —Field & Stream

“Moving and haunting. . . . A beautifully rendered, carefully researched story.” —PopMatters

 “Riveting. . . . A stunning look inside at the life and inner thoughts of one of our era’s most confounding characters.” —Bangor Daily News

“Thought-provoking and enduring . . . Will leave readers thinking deeply about modern society, the search for meaning, and the impact of solitude. Finkel is a skilled storyteller.” —Portland Press Herald (Maine)

“I was drawn through these pages in a single sitting—their pull is true and magnetic. . . . [Knight’s] tale becomes universal thanks to the expert care of Finkel’s writing. . . The Stranger in the Woods is, ultimately, a meditation on the pains of social obligation and the longing toward retreat that resides in us all.” —Michael Harris, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Michael Finkel has done something magical with this profound book . . . [His] investigation runs deep, summoning . . . the human history of our own attempts to find meaning in a noisy world.” —Michael Paterniti, author of Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain

“Chris Knight is an American original . . . I burned through this haunting tale in one rapt sitting.” —John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed