A thoughtful, honest, and poignant portrait.

A journalist’s account of a Massachusetts man who went deep into the Maine woods to live a life of solitude and self-sufficiency.

While scanning the news online, Finkel (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, 2005) came across the story of Christopher Knight. Police officers had arrested Knight for burglary, but when they questioned him further, they discovered that their suspect had been living alone in the wild for 27 years. Fascinated, the author sought out the “North Pond hermit” to learn why he had turned his back on society and understand the challenges he now faced with reintegration. Knight’s boyhood and adolescence had been ordinary; his most outstanding traits were his shyness and penchant for solitude. Then, when he was 20, he suddenly quit his job. Without saying a word to friends or family, he went on a road trip that eventually led him to the shores of Moosehead Lake in Maine. There, he parked his car and, carrying only a backpack and a tent, “stepped into the trees and walked away.” Knight built a shelter deep in the woods, where he camped outdoors even during the bitterest of Maine winters. He broke into nearby cottages, where he stole only what he needed to survive, including food, clothing, and magazines. His burglaries—for which he admitted feeling “ashamed”—frightened residents at first. However, over time, many became used to his “visits” and even tried to leave out supplies for him to take. Through interviews conducted with the elusive Knight and those who knew him, Finkel creates a sympathetic portrait of a gentle yet quietly troubled man who willingly chose a Spartan existence in nature as a way to find the peace and freedom that eluded him in society. The narrative that emerges from Finkel’s compassionate research not only probes the nature of the relationship between the individual and society, but also ponders the meaning of happiness and fulfillment in the modern world.

A thoughtful, honest, and poignant portrait.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4711-5197-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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