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
1101875682
Branch Call Number: 974.122043
Characteristics: 203 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm

Opinion

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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t
thebritlass
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.

n
nellybells
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.

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.

c
Clamato
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.

multcolib_susannel Aug 19, 2017

True story of a man who loves everything about the world except its people.

Chapel_Hill_AmandaG Aug 16, 2017

I was completely fascinated by Knight's story because who hasn't ever thought about escaping from the world for a few days (or longer)? However, I did finish the book feeling frustrated because I never got to the point where I really understood Knight's mindset or his motivations for living the way he did. I do think Finkel did an admirable job in reporting the story and making it as engaging as possible but was simply prevented from going any deeper due Knight's unwillingness to share more. This would be a great pick for any book group because it is sure to generate lots of thoughtful discussion.

SCL_Tricia Aug 11, 2017

I didn't agree with the author's view point and perspective on a few things but I enjoyed the book. It is not very often that you can say that, usually if I disagree, I don't like the book. I enjoyed the back history on hermits and Knight. His childhood sounded interesting and I would have liked to know more. I found the book to be just the right length, the author did not try to drag it out into more than it was and I did appreciate that. All in all a great book to start a discussion.

b
bronteside
Aug 10, 2017

Stunning.
An original work of non-fiction mystery.
The irony of a man who leaves the world to escape people
But needs them to finance his new world.
Hermit, loner, misanthrope : Christopher Knight belies all labels.
Michael Finkel gets close to this outlier, but never penetrates
The enigma of Knight.
Nor would anyone else. Knight probably doesn't understand himself, nor cares to.
A disturbing,fascinating and compelling read.

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s
sara34
Aug 16, 2017

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

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Tjad2L
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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t
thebritlass
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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