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Here’s the Wild Idea

Michael’s Wild Idea: To write captivating stories about people who live on the fringes of society and do wild things. 

Michael Finkel is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, which we dive deep into on today’s show. The story chronicles a highly intelligent man that lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years without lighting a single fire, or talking to a single soul.

An outdoors lover himself, who splits time between Montana and Southern France, Michael has a penchant for stories about those who live on the edges of society, and people who live with less. On assignment as a journalist for the likes of the New York Times and National Geographic, he’s skied off the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, set sail on a Haitian refugee boat, joined a cult in Colorado, been in a car that was run over by a tank in Afghanistan, and covered the last hunter-gatherer tribes. His previous book, True Story, was adapted into a 2015 major motion picture produced by Brad Pitt starring James Franco and Jonah Hill.

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You want to be a writer.
  • You’ve ever thought of leaving it all behind to live alone in the woods.
  • You enjoy hearing from amazing storytellers.
  • You love stories of survival and those who can thrive with less.

Key Takeaways

  • 3:30 – The story behind Michael’s book, The Stranger in the Woods.
  • 5:00 – How Michael found this story.
  • 9:50 – How Chris Knight survived 27 Maine winters.
  • 12:30 – How Chris’s upbringing contributed to his ability to live as a hermit.
  • 14:55 – What kinds of gear they found at Chris’s site.
  • 19:10 – What Michael learned about why humans crave being alone.
  • 25:45 – Michael’s relationship with adventure and survival.
  • 30:30 – Why Michael felt great when he was in the wilderness.
  • 31:45 – What Michael is working on now.
  • 33:50 – Michael’s advice for writers.
  • 36:00 – What books and authors he recommends.
  • 37:30 – Michael’s favorite thing to do in airports.
  • 38:20 – Tips for getting your book optioned.
  • 40:40 – Michael’s advice for his younger self.
  • 42:00 – Michael’s perfect party.

Other episodes to listen to

Florence Williams

Michael’s Books

The Stranger in the Woods
True Story

Awesome book Michael recommends gifting

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Coming Into the Country by John McPhee
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
The Last Cowboys by John Branch


Read about the blind man who taught himself echo-location
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

Connect with Michael




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