Book Review: The Cult of LEGO

A few months ago I was sent a review copy of the book “The Cult of LEGO” by John Baichtal and Joe Meno. Although the book was published last November by No Starch Press, and it’s taken me a while to finish reading it… but I finally did, and here are my thoughts on it.

The Cult of LEGO (book cover)

I’ve known Joe for years; he’s a regular at many of the major fan conventions on the east coast, and the editor of BrickJournal. He also ran the 2006 BrickFest in Washington, D.C., and when I was starting up the Bricks by the Bay planning process for our first convention in 2010, he provided a lot of great advice. I don’t know the other author, however.

This is a great coffee table book covering pretty comprehensively all aspects of the LEGO adult hobby. It’s not a single narrative though, from cover to cover, but rather each page pretty well stands on its own (in some cases the story might span 2-3 pages). This is perfect for picking it up, opening it to a random page, reading a page or two, then putting it back down again, but if you do try to read it continuously it comes off a bit jarring. I suppose as a coffee table book this is ideal, but it’s not how I like to read. The chapters or stories in the book seem like blog posts more than anything else, which is understandable as John Baichtal is a prominent blogger.

Most of No Starch Press’s LEGO books are squarely aimed at the LEGO hobbyist, but this one is not. It’s for the person who finds LEGO interesting, but isn’t a builder themselves, or maybe someone new to LEGO as a hobby. It’s perfect for someone who loves to come to the public day of a LEGO convention but would never attend the whole weekend.

The book is full of great pictures featuring a wide variety of creations and events from all over the world, spanning the last ten years and more. I like the fact that they don’t just highlight the latest and greatest, but creations that were featured on LUGNET 10 years ago are given equal billing with something from last year, showing the timelessness of LEGO as a medium. If you have a friend or family member who doesn’t understand your fascination with LEGO, sharing this book with them would go a long way toward redressing that disconnect. Combining Meno’s encyclopedic knowledge of the LEGO hobby and AFOL scene with Baichtal’s outsider point of view was a master stroke by the publishers, as it ensures accuracy and comprehensiveness while keeping it accessible and understandable by a non-AFOL.

It was out of date almost immediately after publication though, with the closure of DesignByMe and LEGO Universe and consequent changes to LDD, and the introduction of the new LEGO Friends line (and its attendant controversies in the media) being topics that were completely missed by the authors. In a rapidly evolving scene such as ours, that’s pretty much inevitable, however.

On a personal note, two of my photos were used (thanks to the Creative Commons license I use in all my Flickr photos) and both BayLUG and Bricks by the Bay got a mention. None of my models were featured though.