Close cookie details

This site uses cookies. Learn more about cookies.

OverDrive would like to use cookies to store information on your computer to improve your user experience at our Website. One of the cookies we use is critical for certain aspects of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but this could affect certain features or services of the site. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, click here to see our Privacy Policy.

If you do not wish to continue, please click here to exit this site.

Hide notification

  Main Nav
The Stranger in the Woods
Cover of The Stranger in the Woods
The Stranger in the Woods
The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit
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.
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.
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    0
  • Library copies:
    3
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:

Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 16

    Knight lived in the dirt but was cleaner than you. Way cleaner. Pine needles and mud don't make you dirty, except superficially. The muck that matters, the bad bacteria, the evil virus, is typically passed through coughs and sneezes and handshakes and kisses. The price of sociability is sometimes our health. Knight quarantined himself from the human race and thus avoided our biohazards. He stayed phenomenally healthy. Though he suffered deeply at times, he insists he never once had a medical emergency, or a serious illness, or a bad accident, or even a cold.

    During the summers, especially in the early years, he was strong, fit, and spry. "You should have seen me in my twenties—I ruled the land I walked upon, it was mine," Knight said, exposing the prideful streak that runs below his surface of contrition. "Why shouldn't I claim it as my own? No one else was there. I was in control. I controlled it as much as I wanted. I was lord of the woods."

    Poison ivy grows throughout the area; its prevalence prevented some people from searching for his site. Knight kept a little jingle in his head—"leaves of three, let it be"—and so ably memorized where each patch grew that even at night he didn't brush against it. He says he was never once afflicted.

    Lyme disease, a bacterial illness transmitted through tick bites that can cause partial paralysis, is endemic to central Maine, but Knight was spared that as well. He brooded about Lyme for a while, then came to a realization: "I couldn't do anything about it, so I stopped thinking about it."

    Living in the woods, subject to the whims of nature, offers a great deal of autonomy but not much control. At first, Knight worried about everything: snowstorms might bury him, hikers could find him, the police would capture him. Gradually, methodically, he shed most of his anxiety.

    But not all. Being too relaxed, he felt, was also a danger. In appropriate doses, worry was useful, possibly lifesaving. "I used worry to encourage thought," he said. "Worry can give you an extra prod to survive and plan. And I had to plan."

    At the conclusion of each thieving mission, he was absolved temporarily of worry. The order in which he ate his food was governed by the pace of spoilage, ground beef to Twinkies. When he was down to little more than flour and shortening, he'd mix those together with water and make biscuits. He never stole homemade meals or unwrapped items, for fear someone might poison him, so everything he took came sealed in a carton or can. He ate every morsel, scraping the containers clean. Then he deposited the wrappers and cartons in his camp's dump, stuffed between boulders at the boundary of his site.

    The dump was scattered over an area of about a hundred square feet. One section was devoted to items like propane tanks and old mattresses and sleeping bags and books, another to food containers. Even in the food area, there was no odor. Knight added layers of dirt and leaves to aid with composting, which eliminated any smell, but most of the packaging was waxed cardboard or plastic, slow to disintegrate. Upon excavation, the colors on many boxes remained garish, superlatives and exclamation points and rococo typography popping from the soil while robins chirped in the branches above.

    The archeological record contained in his dump revealed why Knight's only significant health issue was his teeth. He brushed regularly, he stole toothpaste, but did not see a dentist and his teeth began to rot. It didn't help that his culinary preferences never progressed beyond the sugar-and-processedfood palate of a teenager. " 'Cooking' is too kind a word for what I...
About the Author-
  • 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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 24, 2016
    On a summer morning in 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight didn’t show up for his job installing alarm systems in Waltham, Mass. Nearly three decades passed before he reappeared and revealed he’d spent most of that time camping in the woods of central Maine. In this fascinating account of Knight’s renunciation of humanity, Finkel (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa) struggles to comprehend the impulses that led Knight to court death by hypothermia even though his family home was less than an hour’s drive away. To survive, Knight relentlessly pilfered supplies from vacation houses around his campsite, infuriating and terrifying homeowners and baffling a generation of cops. Finally apprehended during one of his raids, the “Hermit of North Pond” battled depression and contemplated suicide as he was forced to rejoin society. Drawn by the details that followed Knight’s arrest, Finkel reached out to him through letters and visits. Despite frequent rebuffs, enough of a relationship developed for Finkel to broadly outline Knight’s wilderness solitude. A fellow outdoorsman, Finkel places Knight in the long tradition of hermits, a category that has been admired and distrusted over the centuries. Yet even as Finkel immerses himself in Knight’s life—researching hermits, consulting psychologists, even camping at Knight’s hideaway—his subject’s motivations remain obscure, leaving the book somehow incomplete. The book doesn’t penetrate the mystery of Knight’s renunciation, but the questions it raises remain deeply compelling.

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2016
    In 1986, at age 26, Christopher Knight disappeared into the Maine woods and didn't speak to a living soul for nearly three decades. He survived by his wits--and by breaking into nearby homes for food, clothing, and reading material. Finkel, whose GQ piece, "The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit" (Aug. 2014), won extraordinary attention, explains how Knight managed. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2017

    Christopher Knight lived for 27 years in the woods of Maine with almost no human interaction, surviving by pilfering food and supplies. Opening with the account of how Knight was captured by an ex-marine after stealing from a local camp, this book begins on an exciting note, though the pace slows as Finkel weaves in research about the science of isolation along with an exploration of the philosophical and nature writing that might lead someone like Knight to seek seclusion. An extension of Finkel's 2014 GQ article "The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit," this title goes into detail about the lengths to which Knight went in order to stay alive. Teens who are drawn to survival stories will appreciate reading about the harsh conditions Knight faced, including freezing weather, isolation, and lack of food, and the problem-solving skills on which he had to rely. This introspective look at the hermit life throughout time focuses on the ethical issues involved in one man's attempt to break free of society. VERDICT Hand this volume to mature and thoughtful teens who love Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild or are interested in philosophy, science, or nature.-Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Michael Paterniti, bestselling author of The Telling Room and Driving Mr. Albert "Michael Finkel has done something magical with this profound book: He's written a gripping modern parable about how one man did the unthinkable, walked away from life as we know it to find a sort of happiness in isolation and silence. His investigation runs deep, summoning not only his surprising, poignant friendship with the book's protagonist, but also the human history of our own attempts to find meaning in a noisy world. In some sacred forest place the hermit waits for us: he is us. This book's promise is simple: If we're lucky enough to find him, we may find ourselves one step closer to perfection."
  • Lawrence Weschler, author of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder and Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists "As ever, Michael Finkel's voice in this fresh new chronicle is clean, clear, lucid--his attention fair and compassionate. The Stranger in the Woods is an altogether surprising page-turner that helps us to see his twisted saint's essential sanity, and in so doing to question our own."
  • Martin Sixsmith, Philomena "The Stranger in the Woods is a wry meditation on one man's attempt to escape life's distractions and look inwards, to find meaning not by doing, but by being."
  • Publishers Weekly "[A] fascinating account of Knight's renunciation of humanity... Deeply compelling."
Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • OverDrive Read
    Release date:
  • EPUB eBook
    Release date:
Digital Rights Information+
  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

Status bar:

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Checkouts page to manage your titles.

Close

You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Checkouts?

Close

Recommendation Limit Reached.

You've reached the maximum number of titles you can recommend at this time. You can recommend up to 1 titles every 7 day(s).

Close

Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend your library consider adding this title to the Digital Collection.

Close

Enhanced Details

Close
Close

Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.

Close

Permissions

Close

The OverDrive Read format of this eBook has professional narration that plays while you read in your browser. Learn more here.

Close

Holds

Total holds:


Close

Restricted

Some format options have been disabled. You may see additional download options outside of this network.

Close

You've reached your library's checkout limit for digital titles.

To make room for more checkouts, you may be able to return titles from your Checkouts page.

Close

Excessive Checkout Limit Reached.

There have been too many titles checked out and returned by your account within a short period of time.

Try again in several days. If you are still not able to check out titles after 7 days, please contact Support.

Close

You have already checked out this title. To access it, return to your Checkouts page.

Close

This title is not available for your card type. If you think this is an error contact support.

Close

An unexpected error has occurred.

If this problem persists, please contact support.

Close

Close

NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

Close
Buy it now
and help our library WIN!
The Stranger in the Woods
The Stranger in the Woods
The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit
Michael Finkel
Choose a retail partner below to buy this title for yourself.
A portion of this purchase goes to support your library.
Clicking on the 'Buy It Now' link will cause you to leave the library download platform website. The content of the retail website is not controlled by the library. Please be aware that the website does not have the same privacy policy as the library or its service providers.
Close
Close

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

Close
Barnes & Noble Sign In |   Sign In

You will be prompted to sign into your library account on the next page.

If this is your first time selecting “Send to NOOK,” you will then be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

The first time you select “Send to NOOK,” you will be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

You can read periodicals on any NOOK tablet or in the free NOOK reading app for iOS, Android or Windows 8.

Accept to ContinueCancel