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Hammer Head

The Making of a Carpenter

Nina MacLaughlin (Author)

Overview | Formats

"No other book has made me want to re-read Ovid and retile my bathroom floor, nor given me the conviction that I can do both. I loved it." —Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking with Men

A warm and inspiring book for anyone who has ever dreamed of changing tracks, Hammer Head is the story of a young woman who quit her desk job to become a carpenter. Writing with infectious curiosity, Nina MacLaughlin—a Classics major who couldn’t tell a Phillips from a flathead screwdriver—describes the joys and frustrations of making things by hand. Filled with the wisdom of writers from Ovid to Mary Oliver and MacLaughlin’s own memorable accounts of working with wood, unfamiliar tools, and her unforgettable mentor, Hammer Head is a passionate book full of sweat, bashed thumbs, and a deep sense of finding real meaning in work and life.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • February 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35232-0
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 240 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverHammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter


Endorsements & Reviews

“MacLaughlin…is a master writer, with the rare combination of acute observation and astute word choice that characterizes writers like Annie Dillard or Joan Didion.” — Rebecca Steinitz, Boston Globe

“Reading Hammer Head, like consuming Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, feels like a crucial education.” — Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly

“Beautiful and wise…Like if Annie Dillard had her own show on HGTV.” — Edan Lepucki, The Millions

“MacLaughlin has hit the nail on the head…Stunning.” — Caroline Goldstein, Bustle

“An inspirational account of [MacLaughlin’s] journey to becoming a carpenter, and the lessons she’s learned about life. It will have Wild fans throwing down their backpacks and picking up a hammer.” — Liberty Hardy, Book Riot

“Riveting…MacLaughlin weaves together layers of history and literature that lift her memoir beyond a personal narrative and into one of all human knowledge.” — Tiffany Gibert, Time Out New York

“MacLaughlin’s evocative prose is just as plumb, level, and true as all the wood structures she ultimately learns to build. This is a lovely and important book.” — Andre Dubus III

“In this beautiful memoir about learning a trade, Nina MacLaughlin explores mortality, desire, the passage of time, and the meaning of work. She transcends the personal and makes us question what of our own works are built to endure. This book—a thing well-made—certainly is. I loved it from beginning to end.” — Philip Connors, author of Fire Season

“Nina MacLaughlin built a dream by becoming a carpenter, and transformed her life. Hammer Head is her exquisitely inspiring story. I loved it.” — Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica

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