Review: The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

This month, I read more nonfiction than I ever have in probably my entire life, and now I can’t get enough. One of the first ones I picked up though, was The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. I had seen a lot of good things about it last year, and finally decided to give it a shot. I remember reading the articles about Christopher Knight when he was first found a few years ago and being amazed that he had achieved life in total isolation for so long, and when I realized this was the same person, I was immediately hooked.

I’ve learned over the last month(ish) that I can actually LOVE nonfiction if it’s done well and the story is engaging, and this one DEFINITELY was. I loved the balance between the interview with Christopher Knight, and the research into other people who had tried to live alone for long stretches of time. It seems so simple from his perspective: he wasn’t really happy surrounded by people doing a job he didn’t care much about, so he left. He liked being alone so naturally, he spend 27 years alone in the woods in Maine.

I still can’t wrap my brain around attempting to do something like that. I wouldn’t survive a single day trying to fend for myself in the woods, let alone years and harsh weathers and ice storms, and I don’t think I’ve spent even 24 hours completely alone ever. It definitely made me think about these things more, and made me wonder how long I could go without speaking to literally anyone. As much as I love to act like I hate talking to people, I know it wouldn’t be very long.

But back to the book. It was short and well-told, and I could have kept reading more about Christopher Knight’s life and his story. However, I was pretty surprised he even consented to this book being published since he wanted to be alone and unknown.

Overall, I definitely recommend this one, especially if you’re not a nonfiction person like I was going into it. It reads almost like a novel, and has a human element that really brings it home.

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for the very kind review! I appreciate you taking the time to venture into non-fiction, and am grateful you found it rewarding.
    Yours,
    Mike Finkel (the journalist who wrote “The Stranger in the Woods.”)

  2. I’m in the same boat and for the same reason- not a non-fiction reader but in the last month have read more than in rest of the year. And all because it read like fiction. I loved Educated, American Radical, and Heart Berries. I just started The Stranger so am glad to see the streak continue!

    1. Yay for more unexpected non-fiction! If you like sad/well-written memoir, I’m reading The Glass Eye by Jeannie Vanasco right now and LOVING it!