The Stranger in the Woods

The Stranger in the Woods

The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Book - 2017
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Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is 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 New York Times bestseller

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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101875681
Branch Call Number: 974.122043
Characteristics: 203 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

According to Finkel, there are three types of hermits in the world. Christopher Knight doesn't fit any of these categories, however, and the author explores why.

From the critics

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Jan 19, 2018

Fascinating and thought provoking. A well written account of a man who isolated himself from other humans for 27 years and did so by living in a camp in dense Maine woods throughout every season, all kinds of treacherous weather and by stealing packaged foods from vacant summer cabins. He is considered by some to be a true Hermit as he had no contact with another living being, except for an exchange of Hello with a hiker for all of those 27 years. No other hermit in recorded history has spent that much time in isolation. One of the most interesting and disturbing facts I found was that most of us only go about 8 hours without any interaction with another and that 9 out of 10 people would rather subject themselves to electric shock treatment than to be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes!
There is much to discuss about an anomalous life, how some crave it and how others fear it.

This is an excellent choice for a book discussion!

Jan 04, 2018

I really liked the book as I to have thought about living off the land and what it would be like. This book describes it well, as Chris Knight did it over 27 yrs until he got caught stealing. Stealing only to survive. The book leaves you with, why people do this, was he a true hermit? I think the system failed him and his punishment in this case was wrong. Since Knight was caught only a couple years ago, and if he so wishes, it would be nice if he could live out in the bush on his own, away from people, government helps so many people, why not help him.

Nov 22, 2017

I loved this book. I want to read this book again sometime. I only wish this book had been longer. Are there issues with the way the information was obtained / the telling of this person's story? Sure, yes. I hadn't heard any of the interviews or read anything about the background of this book. I saw it on a shelf at the library and the subtitle immediately grabbed me. Ended up reading the ebook version. To read about someone doing exactly what I've often fantasized about doing (except the stealing parts) with bits of history mixed in about other people who have done this throughout time ... it was like taking a little hermit vacation myself.

AL_LESLEY Oct 26, 2017

The fascinating story of Christopher Knight and his return to civilization after 27 years alone in the woods of Maine. Told with feeling by the author.

Oct 03, 2017

Read by the fireplace when it is the last book in your stack. A twenty-year old man disappeared into the Maine forest in 1986, living in a camp for nearly thirty years without human contact except for his burglaries of food and equipment from cabins. Eventually caught, arrested and convicted.

Sep 19, 2017

I really enjoyed this and found it hard to put down. The actual story of the hermit, while interesting, doesn't take long to tell, but the author takes time to explore the themes of the man's story - silence, time, withdrawal, hermits, etc. that was also good food for thought.

AL_HOLLYR Sep 18, 2017

One of the most intriguing, thought-provoking books I have read this year. The fascinating tale of the man who may have been the the last "true" hermit in the United States. Well-written with lots of interesting musings about the question of whether or not socialization is a necessary part of being human.

Sep 11, 2017

Absolutely amazing book. I actually listened on audio cd but comments are not posted for that format. I listened to it about a week ago and can't get it out of my head. Imagine - 27 years living in a tent in the Maine woods. (He actually had made it quite comfortable because of his stealing) But he was near death from cold and starvation. It is such an incredible story. There is so much to say: why he did it, he doesn't know. Perhaps autism spectrum. He definitely wasn't a crazy man. And I thought I was reclusive!

AL_SARAHD Sep 05, 2017

Many of us wish to make an escape from this world; to go off into the wilderness and never return. Christopher Knight is the exception. He left his world, his family, and his possessions for a life of complete silence and solitude. They called him "hermit" or "insane" but it is only through his own words, that we are finally given truth.

Sep 05, 2017

Just finished this remarkable story and am hoping that Chris Knight is doing well where ever he is. As a child, my father took myself and a few others on a hike to meet a hermit. Not at all sure how he knew of him but this guy was eccentric. I remember the collection of small wind up clocks - all ticking. Cheap plastic toys you would get at a summer fair lined up on shelves and when I tried to touch them - he got mad at me. I was 5 or 6. That was contact though with other humans whether he liked it or not but C.K. did not see anyone other than a hiker in the decades he was in his wooded home. Remarkable. I can't imagine how painful it was for him to be dragged back to a modern world with so many technological changes, so busy and so noisy. To see his mother and siblings again. To be caged in a jail.. Very interesting read and enjoyed all the historical references. Was glad to get to know this interesting and fascinating person.

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Jan 04, 2018

runningbeat thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Aug 16, 2017

sara34 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 9 and 88

Apr 20, 2017

Tjad2L thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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SPL_Shauna Jun 26, 2017

For introverted lovers of the outdoors, the idea of escaping into the woods alone for weeks can seem like a balm. But, Christopher Knight managed to vanish into the Maine woods for 27 years without a trace, beyond a legend based on the tiny absences he left behind in sustaining himself. Known to some as the North Pond Hermit or The Hungry Man, his thousands of small, self-sustaining thefts unsettled a community for a quarter century while he lived his peace.

This book was my first experience reading nonfiction with an unreliable narrator. The author is a journalist who admits issues in the past with fudging his stories (he merged a number of sources into one voice for narrative benefit in an earlier project and was caught out). He discloses this midway into the book, and it makes you wonder a bit about what liberties he may have taken with Knight's story; among them, the extent to which Knight understood and gave permission for his tale to be told. It's an uncomfortable reading experience, to be sure, but fascinating as well.

Finkel is an outdoorsman himself, and therefore disposed to feel a certain understanding around Knight's choices. His empathy and curiosity drive the story to read like a novel rather than a biography, and leave readers rooting alternately for Knight, his family, the cottagers and the fledgling friendship between Knight and Finkel. All in all, this book makes for a great summer read, particularly if you're at a remote cottage and enjoy a bit creepiness in a book.


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Sep 19, 2017

Silence, it appears, is not the opposite of sound. It is another world altogether, literally offering a deeper level of thought, a journey to the bedrock of the self.


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