688: LEGO by Jonathan Bender

by Gerard


688.725: Bender, Jonathan. LEGO: A Love Story. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. 262 pp. ISBN 978-0-470-40702-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 680: Manufacture of products for specific use
  • 688: Other final products and packaging technology
  • 688.7: Recreational equipment
  • 688.72: Toys
  • 688.725: Educational toys

Like most kids in the US, I had LEGO bricks. I would spend whole weekends designing elaborate houses and scenes, just to tear it down and start again. Jonathan Bender’s LEGO: A Love Story captures the same energy and glee that children first have when playing with LEGO. His re-introduction to the world of toy brickwork follows the same pattern of most current-day AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO), with the discovery of a long-forgotten bin of bricks. You can’t help but play with them once found. Most adults who build with LEGO bricks have a period when they’ve put them away but never got rid of them. Now, with wholesalers of individual pieces, collector’s sets, and conventions devoted to LEGO products, the company has made an interesting resurgence.

At first, you think the book’s going to be just another tale of a guy experiencing an existential crisis and finding solace in the toys of his past, but he sidesteps the cliché and finds real meaning and also a lot fun through LEGO. It’s a sweet tale. He parallels this recapturing of his youth with the ups and downs of trying to conceive a child with his wife. There is a gentle interplay of maturity and childlike glee over LEGO. This book reminded me a lot of David Ewalt’s Of Dice and Men in that the author starts with a hobby and quickly delves into the history, nuance, and community behind a single product. Every community has its elements of contention, and the AFOLs are no different. There are battles over superior designs, issues of purity (don’t mention MEGA bloks to a LEGO fan), and opinions over the direction of LEGO Group.

If you’ve played with LEGO, this book will conjure up memories faster than Proust’s madeleines. With every set he mentioned, I found myself tromping through Amazon to find out more about it (don’t worry—I didn’t get any). Luckily, my nephews are just about at LEGO age, so I see a large collection in their future. Bender’s enthusiasm for his subject as well as his honesty make this one a pleasure to read. I heartily recommend it.