Tag Archives: Book

The Brothers Brick isn’t just about bricks! When we’re not building with LEGO or writing about LEGO, we enjoy reading about it, too. Thankfully, there’s a plethora of page-turners ready for our perusal.

Review: Brick City by Warren Elsmore

The name Warren Elsmore may not be immediately familiar to adult fans of LEGO worldwide, but you are likely to have seen some of his work, such as his LEGO model of the 2012 London Olympic Park. He is also well-known in British LEGO circles as the organiser of AFOLCON, the UK’s own LEGO convention, and as the former chairman of the Brickish Association. For his latest project, he has translated his love for our favourite bricks into a book titled Brick City, about building the world’s great cities with LEGO.

Brick City

The book contains a few introductory pages on subjects such as building techniques, useful LEGO parts and customising minifigs. The rest of the more than 250 pages of this hefty volume are dedicated to photographs and instructions of fan-built models, each with an informative little blurb about the real-world object and about its LEGO rendition. Many of these models were built by Warren himself and his wife Kitty, but he has also enlisted the help of several other builders, including J. Spencer Rezkalla (Spencer R), Sean Kenney and Arthur Gugick, who are well-known for their architectural models. The book also includes two of my own (vehicle) models, which is why I was sent the advance copy of the book that I am using for this review.

Brick City

The models are mainly buildings and monuments, from a grand total of 39 cities across the world, with a few pages dedicated to each of them. London, New York and Paris each cover larger sections. You can build some of the models yourself, using instructions in the book. These models tend to be fairly straightforward, but often are still a bit more complicated than your average LEGO set. A minor point of criticism of the book is that the pages aren’t particularly large and because of this, the instructions are quite small. This may make them somewhat difficult to follow for inexperienced builders. If you are like me, however, the instructions don’t really matter. It is simply a joy to have this book lie on my coffee table and leaf through it every now and then, to enjoy the photographs. The book contains beautiful models and the reproduction of the photographs is excellent. It also contains two large fold-out posters, of Warren’s London St Pancras station and Spencer’s beautiful microscale rendition of the (new) World Trade Center from New York. If you are into LEGO architecture sets, you’ll definitely like this one.

The book will officially be out in early May, but Amazon.com has already started shipping copies. RRP for the UK version (called Brick city -LEGO for Grown-ups) is £12.99 and the list price for the US version is $19.90. There is also an Australian version (which, somewhat oddly, is the one I got), but only the covers differ. The book is also available in Canada and several European countries.

“Brick by Brick” by David C. Robertson [Review]

We recently received an advance copy of David C. Robertson‘s new book Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry.

There has been a lot of buzz about the LEGO Group in business circles for a number of years now. Much of this has been caused by the near-bankruptcy of the company and their stellar comeback, posting record profits yet again in 2012. Mr. Robertson’s book takes the reader on a journey deep inside the company and explains many of the internal workings that led to the rise, the fall, and the ultimate resurrection of LEGO. Mr. Robertson is a professor of innovation and product development, so some of the terminology was unfamiliar to me. However, his writing is accessible to the lay reader and the book gives a lot of insight into LEGO and their attempts at innovation, covering both their successes and failures. Some of the information may be familiar to the hard-core fan but I found that there was a lot of information regarding issues of which I was unaware. For instance, I knew that LEGO is an extremely insulated company and that the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. What I didn’t know was that in the 90s they branched off into so many different markets and ventures that there were many divisions cut off from the main leadership and were never even asked to make sure their efforts were marketable, profitable or even if they had anything to do with LEGO.

Some of the points that Robertson explores are:
- How the leadership at LEGO in the 90s tried to incorporate the leading edge strategies of innovation strategies and nearly killed the company in doing so.
- The lose of control that the 90s leadership experienced by rapidly moving outside the company’s fields of expertise, not establishing any sort of reliable accountability or tracking of costs. As hard as it is to believe, the leadership didn’t even know which lines were making money and which weren’t.
- How the new leadership turned the company around by pulling back and innovating “inside the brick”…exploring innovations inside the realm of what they knew and could control.
- How and why certain innovations failed in such a spectacular fashion, such as LEGO Universe and Galidor, and why other innovations became overnight sensations, such as Ninjago, Mindstorms NXT, and the lines of LEGO video games and board games.

Overall, the book was quite interesting, easy to read, and gave me added insight into thought processes and decision-making that has gone on at LEGO. I would recommend it any LEGO fan.

Brick by Brick is available for pre-order from Amazon.com, and the book is due out on June 25th, 2013.

The LEGO Build-it Book: Amazing Vehicles, out Jun 2013 [Exclusive Excerpts]

No Starch Press continues building a library of LEGO books this year with their forthcoming The LEGO Build-It Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles, due out on June 22. The book features LEGO vehicle designs by Dutch builder Nathanaël Kuipers and Swiss builder Mattia Zamboni.

The book will feature step-by-step instructions for ten vehicles that you can build from the same LEGO bricks, ranging from a stroller to a rescue truck.

To whet your building appetite, we have an exclusive preview of pages from the instructions for the Off-Roader, Go-Kart, Muscle Car, Street Car, and Rescue Truck models (click through for large photos).

The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 117)
The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 15) The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 22)
The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 23) The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 34)
The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 35) The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 38)
The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 39) The LEGO Build-it Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles (p. 116)

The LEGO Build-It Book, Vol. 1: Amazing Vehicles is available for pre-order from Amazon.com and No Starch Press.

The Iron Throne Made of Lego

The Iron Throne, that notoriously uncomfortable chair at the heart of the turmoil in Westeros in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, has been wonderfully recreated in Lego by Jacob Nion. And of course, to accompany it is the beloved, if ill-fated, Ned Stark, Hand of the King. Jacob is following the styling of the HBO television series A Game of Thrones in his interpretation of the throne and of Stark, and nicely enough, Ned Stark is easy to recreate in Lego form thanks to actor Sean Bean already having been made in Lego in the character of Boromir.

The Iron Throne

Lego Collectible Minifigure Encyclopedia Pre-Order

It looks like the new LEGO Minifigures: Character Encyclopedia (through series 10) is now available for pre-order on Amazon at a pretty nice price. Ten bucks isn’t bad for a book that comes with a special fig itself (rumor is that it’s a toy soldier).  I have a funny feeling that secret figure is going to be highly sought-after, and it will likely fetch nearly the price of the book on BrickLink.

Minifigure Encyclopedia

LEGO and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite non-LEGO blogs is the MAKE Blog, where Cult of LEGO author John Baichtel joins tech/geek luminaries like Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder to highlight everything from steampunk art cars to the latest adventures in 3D printing.

One frequent MAKE topic I’m fascinated by (though I certainly already have way too many hobbies) is Arduino. Dubbed “open source hardware,” it’s always fascinating seeing what just about anybody (especially kids) can do with these little boards.

John’s latest book, LEGO and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics, is part of MAKE’s own how-to series, and merges two logical, inevitable hobbies.

John writes in today’s Monday Jolt to introduce the book, and talks specifically about integrating the two systems, as well as how the two systems compare.

Head on over to the MAKE Blog to read John’s intro. You can pick up the book from Amazon.com.

The Brothers Brick LEGO holiday gift guide 2012

What do you get the LEGO fan who probably buys themselves all the LEGO he or she could ever need? Here at The Brothers Brick (TBB), our LEGO holiday gift guide has everything a LEGO fan is going to love — everything but official LEGO sets!

LEGO Books

Regular readers will certainly have noticed that publishers have been furiously releasing stacks of new LEGO books lately. We haven’t been able to review all of them here (we’ll get to them, time permitting), but we definitely recommend each of these books.

The Big Unofficial Lego Builder’s Book: Build Your Own City
Authors: Oliver Albrecht & Joachim Klang.
Price: $29.99
Review: Read Tim’s review here on TBB.

The Brick Bible: The New Testament: A New Spin on the Story of Jesus
Author: Brendan Powell Smith.
Price: $19.95
Review: Read Bruce’s review over on GodBricks.

The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide
Author: Paweł “Sariel” Kmieć
Price: $29.95
Review: Read Josh’s review here on TBB.

The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide (2nd Edition)
Author: Allan Bedford
Price: $24.95
Review: Forthcoming here on TBB…

The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More!
Author: Megan Rothrock
Price: $24.95
Review: Read Tim’s review here on TBB.

Moleskine LEGO Notebook
Price: $16.95 (small) to $21.95 (large)
Review: Read Andrew’s review here on TBB.

And if you didn’t pick them up at the time, don’t miss two of my personal favorite LEGO books.

The Cult of LEGO
Authors: John Baichtal & Joe Meno
Price: $39.95
Review: Read Andrew’s review here on TBB.

LEGO: A Love Story
Author: Jonathan Bender
Price: $24.95
Review: Read Andrew’s review here on TBB.

Read the full LEGO gift guide after the jump!

The Big Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Book [Review]

Soon after the LEGO Adventure Book, I found out about The Big Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Book by Oliver Albrecht (*Olly*) and Joe Klang (-derjoe-). I guess it must be Christmas or something as that left me with two LEGO books I wanted. Sensing my desire, Joe Klang sent me a copy of the book which means I am now able to review it for you all.

The tl;dr version can be summed up simply: buy this book (or from Amazon.co.uk, or in its original German) if you like great LEGO town models, great models in general, mini/midi scale LEGO models, or nice books about LEGO.

The Big Unofficial LEGO Builder's Book - Examples

Polizei & Feuerwehr / Police & Fire EngineThis book is a little more focussed than the LEGO Adventure Book, and arguably more tailored toward adults than children (although older children and teenagers who are still into LEGO would love it). It is mostly a collection of instructions for models at regular minifig scale (six-wide car scale for those who care), and at “midi scale” (see right) where cars are two bricks wide and everything else is scaled accordingly. In between the very, very many instruction sets, there are tips and tricks on building, mostly at a fairly advanced level.

This is a book for ‘serious’ modelling and the technical level is higher than LEGO sets. The models are of a very high quality, with a focus on looks rather than playability. Which I love but may not be for everyone. But Joe and Oliver are excellent builders so this is unsurprising.

One aspect of the book that I found very nice is that the instructions are usually presented in a very common colour (often red), and then examples are shown in alternate colour schemes. I think this is a great idea, allowing more people to build them straight out of the book, but offering more exciting variants. On the whole the instructions are very clear, and are made with LDraw, which in my opinion makes better printed instructions than even LEGO’s in house software. I found the steps pretty easy to follow too.

The Big Unofficial LEGO Builder's Book - Examples

The English language book has some amusingly quirky translations from the original German. But it does not suffer from them (personally I like German-English) and is entirely readable. On the whole I really have to recommend this to people who are ‘serious’ about building LEGO towns, or just like to see what really good builders can do with a bunch of bricks. Be warned though, that if buying for a young child you will have to help them. Overall it’s an excellent book and I’m happy to have it in my collection and would guess that if you’re reading TBB, you would too.

You can buy it from Amazon.com and help support TBB.