The LEGO Neighborhood Book [Review]

No Starch Press, known as the purveyors of many LEGO books written by LEGO fans, recently sent me a copy of their latest book exploring our favorite hobby, The LEGO Neighborhood Book. Written by brothers Brian and Jason Lyles, it explores the City Modular standard through pre-built creations, architectural techniques, and model instructions. The 204-page book is 8″x8″ with a high-quality soft cover, and the glossy pages with great color representation we’ve come to expect from books about LEGO.

The LEGO Neighborhood Book

The City Modular standard is based on LEGO’s popular series of official advanced town kits featuring classic buildings, each of which connects to its neighbors via a standard Technic pin connection. The line began in 2007 with the introduction of 10182 Café Corner and has since expanded to 8 sets, ranging from a Pet Shop to a Fire Station. Each building comes apart at each floor, providing full access to the interior, and this function, together with the system for connecting the buildings to one another, gives the name modulars. Over the past 7 years, fans have been creating hundreds of their own buildings, each set on the same basic standard, to fill out the city streets of LEGO towns. The LEGO Neighborhood Book gives an introduction to this fan-driven side of the modulars.

The LEGO Neighborhood Book

The first chapter provides this basic introduction and lays out the standard for the modulars. Chapters 2-4 are where the book really hits its stride, though, beginning with The Design Process. A bit of color theory and general styling can be gleaned here, but the best part is the dozens of images of real-world architectural details paired with various techniques for recreating them in LEGO. This section also includes many interior details like paintings and dressers, and even a few exterior city elements like traffic signals. I particularly enjoyed that the authors teach how to create, instead of simply giving instructions: “Try to imagine the real-life reference model as a giant LEGO model. As crazy as that might sound, it will help you identify which architectural details actually look like individual LEGO pieces already.” The authors then provide numerous examples of their own work, which is of good quality, to show how their advice comes together to create a cohesive model.

The latter half of the book comprises instructions. The authors designed a very nice two-story corner drugstore. All of the parts necessary are laid out at the beginning of the instructions, and then at each step, and a link is also provided to a downloadable parts list. Next is a house — or rather for 3 houses. The authors developed one building with 3 very different facades, the instructions for each of which are provided here. The three are in Parisian, Colonial, and Dutch Canal styles.

The LEGO Neighborhood Book

Overall, there’s probably little here that will be new to a veteran builder, but to the novice or intermediate builder, I can easily see this book becoming an invaluable resource. It’s a very nice book, and would make a great gift for someone who’s just beginning to get back into the LEGO hobby. The LEGO Neighborhood Book is available from No Starch Press for $19.95 in September, and is currently available for pre-order from Amazon for $14.27.

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