The Stranger in the Woods - Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods

By Michael Finkel

  • Release Date: 2017-03-07
  • Genre: Nature
Score: 4.5
From 580 Ratings


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.


  • Very entertaining read

    By Gooseneck96
    Finkel tells Knight’s story well. The ending shouldn’t surprise the reader, given the story is about a hermit that wanted to be left alone. The small amount of context and history of hermits framed Knight well for where he may fall in the hermit spectrum. Finkel dabbled in a few poetic romanticisms about Knight’s choices that felt off kilter. Ultimately, a great book to read on your phone and on the go.
  • The Stranger in the Woods

    By KyBooks
    Fascinating read about how one person could isolate themselves from society. And also interesting how the community that he stole from responded to his crimes. Hard at times to read how this man felt having to be a part of society.
  • Read this in one sitting I couldn’t put it down

    By kaykaybean13
    This is an extraordinary true story about a man who was stifled by the society and the pressure of societal expectations and behavior that’s thrust upon us all. For some, they conform and find it relatively easy to acclimate into the narrative and restrictions others around us write for us. For others, the only contentment they find is when they are alone free of the barriers and interaction with others. It is where Christopher obviously felt his most authentic self. I was devastated for him when he was arrested and locked up in a room away from nature and the freedom he paid an extreme price for. Nothing he did was easy, in fact I’d say his life was full of suffering and pain but he’d go to these extreme measures to find some peace of mind and clarity in a place where he was able to be his best version of himself. Yet, his need to survive and to remain in the home he’d given his life for was only attainable if he stole the food in which he needed to live. I think this is a very difficult situation for all involved but my heart and my conviction was with Chris. For anyone to go to the lengths he did, for nearly 3 decades to be free of the imposing restraints of society it speaks volumes of the visceral need for solitude and the yearning to be free from everything living in our society entails and requires of the citizens who live within it- it wasn’t FREEDOM or how he identifies with that state of being and he isn’t wrong. There’s a lot of things this county is but land of the free it is not. The proof of this idealism is in his sentencing and the incarceration of a man who couldn’t live within the boundaries of societal expectations and restraint so he chose to live alone, sacrificing his connection with his family and he gave everything up including his principles when he resorted to stealing food to do so. I was saddened he was given so much probation time, drug tests and forced him to live in a world that he walked away from 30 years earlier. There’s no amount of therapy or time that will acclimatize him into the very place he escaped from by forcing him to be everything he detests and cannot relate to on any level other than despondent misery and false pretenses. It’s everything that I dislike about this society, judicial system and especially the penal system. In this country, we call it the land of the free. Nothing about this place is free. We abide and obey the laws, the societal norms and the peg holes that are dictated to us as the correct, right and law abiding way to live. There are rules, regulations and expectations as well as narratives written for us before we can even express what it is we need to make us feel our best selves, safe and have peace of mind. The notion that millions of people will all find these restrictive and rigid rules laws and beliefs agreeable is not realistic. The punishment those who aren’t able to conform are harshly punished, labeled mentally ill or judged harshly and treated cruelly and unfairly. We’ve lost our sense of compassion and empathy for other humans who aren’t marching to the same beat and it’s brutally unfair. Some of the most grueling incarnation or institutionalizations have been given to human beings who weren’t violent, they didn’t cause intentional destruction or harm but they were forced to endure living in a world that didn’t feel comfortable or even worth living in and they’d been left to make take extreme measures that very often weren’t harmful to anyone but they broke the laws of the land and they weren’t following suit in the tidy manner expected of everyone to comply with. My heart and respect is with Chris. I hope he’s able to find his way and I pray he’s been able to get back into the woods for a respite from the ever omnipresent government and society that remove those who aren’t like all the rest from their communities and their lives and they put them into cement versions of hell on Earth and leave them there without a chance of comprising a life that would be beneficial for the perpetrator and the elitists that make the rules, and decide who is in and who is out.
  • Best book you will ever read

    By jillfromflorida
    You won’t be able to put it down.
  • Interesting

    By Promise316
    Good read, true story, very interesting
  • Easy Read

    By Cheapcollector
    I enjoyed this book. I thought it was very well written and thorough. As an introvert myself I found the idea of living a hermit life fascinating. Ultimately I don't think I could survive a lifetime of solitude. But this book provided a nice glimpse inside what that life looked like for Mr. Knight.
  • Loved it

    By Peak2Peak
    Amazing treatises on the virtues of solitude and the dilemma what we owe to society vs what we owe to ourselves to guarantee a live well lived on our terms. I couldn’t put this down.
  • Amazing

    By Pattyjoe1
    Simple story that in the wrong hands would never have been told as skillfully and thoughtfully as this author has done. There's so little and so much to the central character, Chris Knight. As good or better than Into the Wild by John Krakauer.
  • The Stranger in the Woods

    By Hastings4him
    A Very good read. I highly recommend it. Especially to families or individuals who have autism and mental illness that runs in their families. As I've thought long and hard throughout the years about the science of psychology as relates to mental illness and autism this book gave me a whole new perspective. I felt it in my own gut as I read this account. It made me think about what could have been the motivation to begin with when Chris was a young boy, what his feelings might have been, the heart and gut felt emotions of Knight's life before his exile, during his time in the woods, after his capture and the little that was recorded about his life after going home and until his death, if in fact he is dead. Worth reading, for sure.
  • Great book

    By Mattynadz
    I don't read books often but, after reading the article in GQ and hearing the stories on the local news channels I just had to read this book. I was very happy I did, what a great story with a sad ending. I cannot imagine spending that much time in solitude. That took great discipline.