Shop Tails: The Animals Who Help Us Make Things Work
Shop Tails: The Animals Who Help Us Make Things Work

Shop Tails: The Animals Who Help Us Make Things Work

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By Nancy R. Hiller

In this singular collection of essays, Nancy Hiller relates the ways in which non-human animals – some companions, others wild or raised on farms – have provided warmth and comfort, prompted laughter and offered examples of courage or composure in the face of distressing events.

“Shop Tails” is a loving tribute to the animals whose lives have been intertwined with Hiller’s own and taught her lessons about relationships, loyalty, illness, joy, death and (also important) pudding. It is also an unflinching look back at old wounds that have played their own part in making Hiller the person she is; she documents her efforts to prove her worth to others, as well as herself, in the workshop and beyond. In doing so, she discovers the empowerment that can come from honoring the life you’ve made in response to the hand you’ve been dealt. Every one of us will at some point experience challenges that feel insurmountable. We can only exert so much control over circumstances and events, but more often than not, we have the capacity to decide how we will respond.

Her 21 essays within will make you laugh. They will make you angry. They will inspire you to create something beautiful (a piece of furniture, a garden, a better relationship, a home). They will break your heart. And they will stay with you.

Ten percent of net profits from the sale of “Shop Tails” will go to The Ranch Cat Rescue (

Critical Praise for 'Shop Tails'

“It was only a matter of time before Lost Art Press found itself publishing a beautiful book that is not about woodworking. 

"I have long admired Nancy Hiller as a craftsperson and a writer, so I am thrilled to the marrow at this examination of her life through the lens of relationships with animals she has known. Here you hold the richly penned, fantastic memoir of a plucky and clever woodworker, kitchen designer and writer, who honestly describes her ascension on the path of wisdom, with a special focus on the stumbles. Among the signposts and guides she has been lucky enough to encounter, she counts a parade of charismatic creatures and the charming directions they lent to her life’s decisions."
— Nick Offerman, woodworker, actor, author, humanist

“It’s hard to describe these essays without lapsing into the kinds of qualifiers that
usually sound (but definitely are not, in this case) overblown: breathtaking, searing,
hilarious, intricate, and above all else, wild and original, like nothing else I’ve read.”
— Edith Sarra, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures

“I couldn't put it down… The mix of humor, vulnerability, and such humanity is very compelling. It made me feel more alive to read it.”
— Jane Goodman, Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University.

About 'Shop Tails'

Like all Lost Art Press books, “Shop Tails” is produced and printed in the United States. The book is 368 pages and measures  6" x 9". The text is printed on acid-free paper in signatures. These signatures are sewn and reinforced with fiber tape. The interior is then wrapped in hardcover boards and cotton cloth, and protected by a tear-resistant dust jacket.

Erratum for the first edition: On page 15, Hiller writes that her diagnosis is “adenoma of the pancreas.”  The correct name is "adenocarcinoma."

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