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Why does a man head out into the woods, leaving everything behind him: home, friends, old life, clothes, even his name? No trauma triggers the decision; it's not preceded by dialogue or even observed by others.
It soon becomes clear that the "why" doesn't matter, though there are intriguing hints along the way. What matters is the journey--both inward and outward. At first, the issue is survival: how does an educated product of civilization survive without tools and clothes? He starts by scavenging the forgotten and discarded detritus on farms and by the roadside, and discovers that what he needs can be either found or made-as long as he needs only essentials. And that raises one of the central questions of the book: what do we really need?
From this barest of beginnings, he seeks refuge with the most destitute, hungers with the penurious, and survives with an ever-growing array of skills. With him, readers can learn how to live, eat, make weapons and build shelters in the forest, construct a raft and escape notice in the night; find a world of geology, metallurgy, botany, palaeontology, and finally myth, vision, and community.

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