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

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  48,049 ratings  ·  5,911 reviews
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.

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massac
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Hardcover, 203 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Michael Finkel Hello. I'm the journalist who wrote this book. Chris Knight -- the hermit -- is not portrayed, not for a page, as some sort of angelic hero in the boo…moreHello. I'm the journalist who wrote this book. Chris Knight -- the hermit -- is not portrayed, not for a page, as some sort of angelic hero in the book. Knight himself did not want to be portrayed that way. He confessed to 1,000 break-ins, one of the most extensive burglary cases in U.S. history. He tormented people. But -- he also never physically harmed anyone, never carried a weapon, never stole anything of great monetary value, never shattered a window or kicked down a door. He had a wildly unusual idea for how to live, and he lived in a way radically different from any other human you will ever encounter, and he has an awesome and daunting brain -- he is, I feel certain, a genius -- and he has insights into modern society and solitude and the meaning of life that you will find nowhere else. "Take the good with the bad," Knight told me, when speaking of how he should be portrayed in my book, and I did. I firmly believe that in the good are some incredible insights, and in the bad is a fascinating true-crime tale. And please note -- Knight is receiving no money from this project. A summer camp for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities (The Pine Tree Camp), from which Knight frequently stole, will instead be receiving donations.(less)
Michael Finkel Hi. I'm the journalist who wrote "The Stranger in the Woods." I understand your concerns -- that the basics of the plot have been revealed, which coul…moreHi. I'm the journalist who wrote "The Stranger in the Woods." I understand your concerns -- that the basics of the plot have been revealed, which could harm the reading experience. I feel that the essence of this book lies in hearing Chris Knight's unique and often poetic voice (and I tried to stand back, with minimal interference, and simply let Mr. Knight speak through the pages). Knight speaks about how he survived completely alone for 27 years -- through insanely difficult winters -- and what that felt like, and what he experienced and heard and learned, and how he felt returning to society after such an enormous absence. Those insights, to me, form the heart of the book, and can in no way be damaged by brief spoilers or by knowing the basics of the plot.(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Michael Finkel
Apr 11, 2017 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
I greatly appreciate all of the reviews here -- even the bad ones! (Though, I admit, it's sometimes a bit painful to read them.) There are so many books out there, I am grateful that you've chosen to take a peek at "The Stranger in the Woods."

It took me three years of full-time work to write a 191-page book; that is a ridiculously slow pace. I can't, of course, say whether or not the book is any good -- that's for you readers to decide -- but I can promise that I weighed every paragraph, every w
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Ashley DiNorcia
Mar 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has left me with intensely conflicted feelings. For a while I felt like I'd be rating this quite highly.
The story of Christopher Knight is fascinating.
However, the motives of the author are questionable at best and his behavior is positively icky.

It didn’t dawn on me how intensely Finkel was harassing Knight and his family until the last twenty pages or so (all of this the author seems to be aware of, but doesn't seem to find anything wrong with.) Below is spoiler territory in slightl
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Petra-X
Four stars, just. There were two stories here, but the author only told one. I understand why but I am frustrated so I added, 'just'.

All-American kid age 20 abandons his new car and wanders off into the woods to live alone and make a career out of burglary. Strange eh? Not half so strange as his family who never even report him missing or make any attempt whatsoever to find him.

The book would have been shorter if the author had stuck to the title but it was padded out with history, famous hermi
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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Wow! This book . . . I couldn't even put it down!

This is the story about Christopher Thomas Knight who at 20 years old, walked into the woods and ever came out until he was caught at 47 years old. He lived in the Maine woods for all of those years in bad weather and in good weather. The only thing he did wrong was burgle cabins and Pine Tree which was a place for people with disabilities. He took any kind of food to survive, watches, books, propane tanks, etc. And when he was caught he confesse
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Julie
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel is a 2017 Knopf publication.

Is it fact or fiction?

I don’t suppose this story ever showed up on my Newsfeed here in Texas, or if it did, it didn’t register with me at the time. But, I will say, that as an extreme introvert, I am no longer concerned about my tendency to avoid social gatherings, because Christopher Knight’s case makes me feel like a social butterfly by comparison.

Christopher Knight when ‘
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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
*looks around at high ratings on Goodreads*


*Decides to still review this stinking ass book*

Okay, so when I first starting reading this book I actually liked it.

It tells the story of a shy man who just decides to leave civilization one day and head off into the woods. He lived completely by himself and survived by robbing a neighboring camp and cabins. For twenty seven years.
TWENTY SEVEN years.

I find that part just fascinating. Christopher Knight didn't announce any reason for his departure
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Elyse  Walters
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Knight is possibly the most solitary known person in history.
Capturing Knight after 27 years..... known as the "North Pond Hermit" was like "netting a giant squid".
When captured he was wearing a pair of LandsEnd jeans - size 38 - with a brown belt:
Stollen goods!

Knight's story continued to be equally as fascinating after he was captured as much as
why Knight chose a reclusive life in the woods of Maine in the first place.

There are the details about how Christopher Knight survived:
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Dem
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
What an amazing true story! For a random audible pick this was quite a remarkable tale of one man’s decision to quit life, disappear and live as a hermit for 27 years.
Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he decided to vanish from society without leaving any notes or indication that he was doing so with friends or family. He had been working for less than a year installing home and vehicle alarm systems near Boston, Massachusetts, until one day with any prior planning he abandoned his
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Diane S ☔
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor
At the age of twenty, Christopher Knight, leaves his large though taciturn family, his job, and society as a whole and disappears into the Maine woods. He will live within a short distance from others but make no personal contact, will steal what he needs from cabins left empty from the winter or weekend and survive totally on his own. When he is caught, never having physically harmed anyone, he will not have spoken to another human being for 27 years.

I have never read anything like this, canno
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Carol (Bookaria)
Excellent account of somebody's choice to live isolated from society.

The irony is that although the “hermit” (Christopher Knight) despised the idea of being part of a community he still was completely dependent on society for food and supplies and resorted to regularly stealing these items in order to survive. I listened to the audiobook which had a great narrator.

Overall, I loved the book and highly recommend it.

EDIT: I want to share one of my favorite quotes from this book...
“People earnestly
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Diane
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was so fascinating and engrossing that I had to give it five stars.

The Stranger in the Woods is the unbelievable-but-true story of Christopher Knight, who in 1986 decided to go into the Maine woods and live alone in the forest. He wasn't discovered until 2013, when he was caught stealing food from nearby cabins. In those nearly three decades, Knight lived outdoors in a tent, never once sleeping in a building. (This is an astounding feat considering how cold Maine gets in winter.) He de
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Idarah
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Idarah by: All The Books Podcast
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"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."

Can you think of a time when you isolated yourself for some quiet time? No communication with the outside world or other beings? I can remember a time in my mid twenties when my routine was as follows: after work on Fridays, I would turn off my phone, head to the grocery store for some weekend staples, pick up my holds from th
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Ammar
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Finkel's The Stranger in the Woods is the mesmerizing account of Christopher Knight's disappearance into Maine's forests for 27 years. For reasons Knight himself never fully articulates, he abandoned civilization for a hermit's life in his early twenties. Knight made his home in a small camp encircled by concealing boulders and dense flora just three minutes (by foot) from a nearby cabin. Developing into a master thief, he survived by stealing from the cabins and camps in the area -- tho ...more
F
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction, usa
I was sent this book from Goodreads.

I really enjoyed this book. More than I thought I would.
Really interesting.
Jessaka
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
“There are no trails. Navigation, for nearly everyone, is a thrashing, branching snappy ordeal, and at dark the place seems impenetrable. This is when the hermit moves. He waits until midnight. Shoulders his backpack and his bag of break-in tools, and sets out from camp. A penlight is clipped to a chain around his neck, but he doesn’t need it yet. Every step is memorized.

He threads through the forest with precision and grace, twisting, striding, hardly a twig broken. On the ground there are sti
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Sheri
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, nonfiction
Interesting and thought provoking story. While you may go into this thinking the hermit has issues, you will come out of it thinking the author also has issues. I’m glad I read it and would recommend it just for the thought provoking content.
Connie G
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Knight walked into the woods of Maine and lived in isolation for 27 years. He was an introverted, intelligent twenty-year-old with a dry sense of humor. He had been brought up in a family that prided themselves on their practical skills and self-reliance, and set up a camp hidden by large boulders. But Knight had to steal food, batteries, books, and other supplies from a nearby children's camp and from vacation cabins in central Maine. He waited until the vacation homes were vacant b ...more
Darlene
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
"Modern life seems set up so that we can avoid loneliness at all cost; but maybe it's worthwhile
to face it occasionally... some philosophers believe that loneliness is the only true feeling
there is."


This incredible book, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit written by Michael Finkel, poses some thought-provoking questions... questions which really have no definitive answers. This book tells the story of Christopher Knight who became known as the 'North Po
...more
Sam Quixote
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1986, 20 year-old Chris Knight walked into the Maine woods and didn’t emerge for the next 27 YEARS! He made camp at a hidden spot near a place called North Pond and survived by repeatedly burglarising the surrounding cabins, most of which were uninhabited for much of the year. Astonishingly, he wasn’t caught until 2013 and up until then had become a local legend dubbed the North Pond Hermit. Journalist Michael Finkel interviewed Knight several times while he was awaiting sentencing and the en ...more
Barbara

3.5 stars

This is the story of Christopher Thomas Knight, also known as 'The North Pond Hermit', who lived in the Maine woods, without human interaction, for 27 years - from 1986 until 2013.



Christopher Thomas Knight

*****

Christopher Thomas Knight grew up in in the small town of Albion, Maine with his parents and five siblings. The Knight family - which was exceptionally clever, capable and self-sufficient - kept to itself, rarely interacting with neighbors or other townsfolk. This may have factor
...more
Brandice
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is Fascinating! I truly enjoy my fair share of alone time and being independent - I’m just fine with silence, but could not fathom doing it for 27 years, alone, in the woods, with no technology and barely encountering just 3 people in that time period. Christopher Knight took hermitting to the extreme. The Stranger in the Woods shares his story.

Knight walked into the woods in Maine one day as a 20 year old, and didn’t leave until he was caught stealing food from a camp site, 27 years
...more
da AL
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How would I fare in the woods for 27 years, without human contact? lolololol in my case indeed! Finkel's biography of a man who did just that is as much a thoughtful meditation on individuality, the need for solitude, and the need for contact. Audiobook performer Mark Bramhall does an excellent of raising the already great writing.
Char
3.5/5 stars.

This book has me conflicted! I listened to it, narrated by Mark Bramhall, and he was excellent. What follows are my thoughts on this book while trying to avoid spoilers, (even though the synopsis tells a lot already). Perhaps my feelings will become more clear as I write.

What I found most fascinating was this: think about how long you've gone in your life without talking to or touching another human being. I'm talking phone calls, internet, or hugs. As the author points out in this
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Kiekiat
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Warning: Contains some spoilers, though if you've read other reviews, you'll find no surprises in mine.

This is a difficult book to review. At first I gave it two stars, then went back and changed it to three. I did so because the book is well-written and covers an interesting subject. This is borne out by the fact that there are 34,000+ ratings and 4500+ reviews. Humans are generally fascinated by stories about people living outside the parameters of "normal" society. Certainly the true tale of
...more
Ron
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The extreme examples in life interest me. Those who climb mountains, strike their own path, live through tragedy, walk into the wilderness alone. This true story about Christopher Knight is like that last example. What I didn’t know before reading the book is that Chris actually lived very close to civilization, almost unbeknownst "neighbors" surrounding a small lake in Central Maine. If he had not broken into their cabins for necessities to live, they would not have guessed another lived just a ...more
Jennifer
“...sometime in the 1990s, he encountered a hiker walking in the woods. “What did you say?” asks Vance. “I said, 'Hi,'” Knight replies. Other than that single syllable, he insists, he had not spoken with or touched another human being, until this evening, for twenty-seven years.”
Dang, that's some solitude right there. After no identifiable antecedent, Christopher Knight walked into the woods of Maine at the age of twenty years old and never looked back. In an effort to support his l
...more
Melanie
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
"Modern life seems set up so that we can avoid lonliness at all costs, but maybe it's worthwhile to face it occasionally. The further we push aloneness away, the less we are able to cope with it, and the more terrifying it gets. Some philosophers believe that loneliness is the only true feeling there is."

Interesting book. While I don't think Christopher Knight is insane I do feel he has some sort of personality disorder. For someone to leave society for 27 years and have no contact with people
...more
Cathrine ☯️
4+★
The words Extraordinary Story in the subtitle were certainly applicable with this one.
A young man drives as far as his car will take him, then abandons it, walking into the woods where he will live hidden for 27 years. To avoid detection, he leaves no footprints, never building a fire for warmth or cooking throughout the subzero winters of Maine, subsisting on provisions which he steals from uninhabited summer cabins.

In a global world of sameness and imitation, Christopher Knight is like no
...more
Laura
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I started this book and finished within 24 hours. It's absolutely fascinating. I do not think that it was acceptable to steal from others but it's pretty amazing that this guy stayed off the grid for 27 years. This book was so interesting. It has taken alot of self-control not to tell every detail to my family members. If you need a book to discuss in social settings where the people are not book nerds(like me), grab this one. Totally recommend to anyone.
Betsy Robinson
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For twenty-seven years so-called hermit Christopher Knight lived in the middle of uninhabited woodlands in Maine. He “chose to disappear well within the bounds of society. . . He wasn’t so much removed from humanity as sitting on the sidelines. (53)” He stole what he needed to survive—food, clothes, books, batteries, mattresses, even a TV!—burgling invisibly, leaving little trace except for what was missing . . . until he was caught. His main entertainment was voracious reading, because the life ...more
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Michael Finkel is the author of "The Stranger in the Woods" and "True Story," which was adapted into a 2015 motion picture. He has reported from more than 50 countries and written for National Geographic, GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives with his family in western Montana and southern France.

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“I think that most of us feel like something is missing from our lives. And I wondered then if Knight's journey was to seek it. But life isn't about searching endlessly to find what's missing. It's about learning to live with the missing parts.” 31 likes
“I read. That's my form of travel.” 22 likes
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