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Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin
Memoir

Hammer Head

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Nina MacLaughlin, on your first book!

by Nina MacLaughlin

Quick take

Making the switch from a life of letters to a life of tools and wood and sweat, MacLaughlin aligns these two worlds with a deft hand, a curious eye, and an ear for language that shows the beauty in all things.

Why I love it

Book of the Month

Nina MacLaughlin's life had been reduced to a series of clicks. She spent her days clicking buttons on her mouse, moving material from her mind, to her screen, and then on to the immense internet void. Tailoring content and clicking, clicking, clicking… In her years as a journalist in Boston, the industry had migrated from carefully crafted articles for actual paying subscribers to short-form "digital content"—quick bites for a younger, plugged-in demographic. Disillusioned with the state of her career, and the state of her soul, MacLaughlin desperately craved a new direction.

Despite having no experience, she answers a Craigslist ad seeking a carpenter's assistant—women strongly urged to apply. So begins a journey of discovery, away from the digital, ephemeral life of her past, and into the tangible, physical, concrete (sometimes literally) life of a carpenter. Clicking gives way to hammer blows, typing to screaming saws, research to whirring drills. And in this well-crafted memoir, MacLaughlin illuminates not only her transformation into a skilled carpenter's assistant, but also into a woman and a new way of inhabiting the world.

Making the switch from a life of letters to a life of tools and wood and sweat, MacLaughlin aligns these two worlds with a deft hand, a curious eye, and an ear for language that shows the beauty in all things. A piece of wood, in MacLaughlin's hands, takes on a translatable sensory experience that the reader shares in: the smell, the weight, the feel of it. MacLaughlin is a student of carpentry and a master of language.

This book is ultimately a meditation on craft: the craft of words and the craft of raw materials. And while she acknowledges the similarities between writing and building, MacLaughlin also makes clear the stark differences between crafting sentences and crafting homes. She has moved from the intangible to the tangible, the mental to the physical, and though there's a blur, a smudge where the two worlds fuse as she moves between them, it is clear that in her new life, she is both building and being built in a way she never could have imagined.

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Member thoughts

All (11)
All (11)
Love (4)
Like (6)
Dislike (1)
13 ratings
  • 31% Love
  • 46% Like
  • 8% Dislike
  • boone, CO

    great view into the world of carpentry. interwoven well with the way that life develops and moves forward. loved how each chapter was related to a different tool

  • Oakwood, OH

  • Yorktown Heights, NY

  • Long Beach, CA

    Interesting read, written in an enjoyable style. Not a subject matter I would normally go for, but I enjoyed the story of a woman in a predominately male world.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    Enjoyed this original memoir very much - though at times I felt a bit bogged down in carpentry details.

  • Monmouth, OR

  • Rochester, MN

  • Fernandina Beach, FL

  • Charlotte , MI

  • New York, NY

  • Saint Louis, MO

Memoir
  • Wild Game
  • Maid
  • All That You Leave Behind
  • Leaving the Witness
  • The Beauty in Breaking
  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads
  • Group
  • Small Fry
  • Aftershocks
  • Too Much Is Not Enough
  • Notes on a Silencing
  • Hunger
  • Kitchen Confidential