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The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
Narrative nonfiction

The Stranger in the Woods

by Michael Finkel

Excellent choice

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Quick take

He abandoned his car, hiked into the Maine woods, and lived in solitude for 27 years, without speaking to or touching another human being.

Why I love it

For 27 years, the residents of the North Pond, Maine, lived in fear. A mysterious interloper robbed their homes repeatedly at random times. Children were scared to go to sleep at night, afraid of the mythical boogeyman who 'œlived in the woods' and who might break into their homes at any moment. Security systems and cameras were installed, but still the thief kept stealing '“ food, clothes, batteries and books from locals. Though he remained seemingly invisible, every day his legend grew.

In 2013, the thief is caught, and his story is unbelievable: In 1986, Christopher Thomas Knight left his home in Massachusetts without saying goodbye to anyone. He drove to Maine, abandoned his car, hiked into the woods, and lived in solitude for 27 years, without speaking to or touching another human being. He was a real life hermit.

This book is a compelling portrait of a solitary man, his unbelievable existence, and his ultimate capture. In the case of The Stranger in the Woods, truth is definitely stranger than fiction: Finkel gets inside the mind of a man who had gone to great extremes to be alone, to leave behind most of the comforts of civilization to live a life on his own terms (albeit one in which he needs to steal Cheez-Its, peanut butter and other sundries from local vacation homes in order to survive).

I was touched by this man’s decision to leave it all behind, in a world where we think we have so little control over our very brief time on this planet. Who hasn’t fantasized about running away and living alone, about never having to work or face the everyday worries and troubles most people experience? But here is a man who actually did it!

As a proud Mainer myself, I remember hearing about the mysterious thefts over the years. The legend, the hermit, and the Maine surroundings are what drew me in to this very interesting book, and I loved everything about it.

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Member ratings (4,319)

  • Barbara R.

    Saint Petersburg, FL

    One of my favorite books. I was surprised to learn about Knight's intelligence. He is such a troubled soul, I wonder how he is doing. In addition to interesting story, I truly appreciate the writing style

  • Miranda G.

    Enfield , CT

    I’ve read this at least twice now. It’s a fascinating view into the surprising life of a hermit. I was shocked he was able to live comfortably for years in the Maine woods, and saddened when it ended.

  • Kylie C.


    This is one of my favorite books. As an introvert and nature-lover, I really related to “the stranger in the woods.” Also they interwoven history of hermits was well researched and very interesting.

  • Debbie F.

    Waukee, IA

    Such a thought provoking read. I found myself pondering my need for solitude/soul searching/ self growth- all combined with my hunger for social interaction. Ii could’t live the life Christopher chos

  • Kristen K.

    Anchorage, AK

    This book was really good! Not my usual choice of book but I loved the story. I definitely couldn’t live out in the woods alone like that and I loved hearing about how he was able to do it for so long

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