Books

The Stranger in the Woods

This book by Michael Finkel is about Christopher Knight, who 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.

Michael Finkel

(Knopf)

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 20-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, 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. (From Penguin Random House)

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

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."


From The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel ©2017. Published by Penguin Random House.

Author interviews

Christopher Knight disappeared in the forests of Maine when he was 20 years old. In 2013 he was arrested while stealing from a camp in the middle of the night. He hadn't spoken with another human being in 27 years. Then he told his story to Michael Finkel 11:34

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