These days, I am a bit skeptical about books in general. Especially new ones.
Don’t get me wrong: I love books, and live literally surrounded by them. But in an age of perpetual information supersaturation, I have to wonder, every time a new book comes out, if the world really needed that extra weight of paper and text. Personally, I’d rather see good ideas expressed as fortune cookies than as tomes, but no one is going to make much money selling a fortune cookie, no matter how revolutionary its twenty-odd words may be.
So it’s hard, for me, to find books that really justify themselves, and when my colleague John Baichtal asked me to review The Cult of LEGO, his recent survey of adult Lego fandom with BrickJournal founder Joe Meno, I was nervous. John’s my pal, and though I would never, to be honest, publish a negative review of one of his books, I anticipated the very real possibility that I would have to tell him, after receiving and reading it, that I was “going to have to pass,” or something just as awkward. I rehearsed a few diplomatic phrases: “It’s just that I’m really, really picky about books, man.”
As you will certainly have guessed by now, however, I didn’t have to use them. The Cult of LEGO, I can report with some relief, is well worth its weight in words. If you are interested in the Lego subculture—and there are good reasons, I think, why everyone should be—John and Joe’s book provides a concise, handy, visually-searchable index where (and this bit is key) there was none before. And if ever a subculture were in need of indexing, it was Lego fandom.
Adult Fans of Lego (AFoLs) were among the earliest Internet adopters, and some online Lego communities are about as old as online communities can be. The sheer number of sites dedicated to some aspect or another of the LEGO universe is enormous: There’s Brickshelf, BrickLink, BrickArms, LUGNET, MOCpages, Peeron.com, LDraw.org, The Brothers Brick, From Bricks to Bothans, Mechahub, Classic-Pirates.com, Classic-Castle.com, and classic-space.com, just to list a few of the big-name sites. (And yes, I know I left out your personal favorite. Apologies!) Add to that the almost six thousand Lego-related Flickr groups, as well as the considerable and rapidly expanding official online presence of the Lego Group, itself, and, well…a person could spend months or even years trying to get a handle on all the different communities, memes, trends, and genres.
But now you don’t have to, because John and Joe have done it for you. If you’re standing at the edge of the Lego ocean and looking for the best place to jump in, you need look no further.
And, almost incidentally, really, The Cult of LEGO is a really good book, under all the traditional criteria for good books: well researched, well-written, well-organized, well-photographed. It’s a pleasure to look at and to hold and to read. It would make a great gift or coffee table book (in case you another one of those), and if you’ve ever tinkered with Lego even a little bit, it’s impossible to even glance through its 290 pages without being inspired by something you see.
The Cult of LEGO is on sale in the Maker Shed, this week, at 20% off the regular price. Just use coupon code “LEGOS” at checkout. Also, as a special reward for Shed shoppers, John has autographed two cases of books for us, and the first 28 buyers will receive one of these signed copies. Get ‘em while they last!