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LEGO: A Love Story Hardcover – May 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ah, the tender story of a man and his plastic bricks. Like Stefan Fatsis' Word Freak (about Scrabble enthusiasts), or Stanley Newman and Mark Lasswell's Cruciverbalism (about crossword puzzlers), Bender's memoir offers an entertaining look at a rich, vibrant, and only somewhat eccentric subculture built around something many would consider a mere pastime. But, for some, including the author, LEGO is no mere pastime. There are conventions devoted to the stackable plastic bricks; at least one publication (BrickJournal); an online marketplace for collectors (similar to eBay); and a surprising number of fairly strict rules (do not, under pain of ridicule or worse, pluralize the word LEGO). LEGO has been around since the late 1950s, but it was only in the mid-'90s that adult fandom really came into its own—the acronym AFOL, for adult fan of LEGO, was coined in 1995. Bender explores not just the AFOL subculture, with its superstars and wannabes and rivalries, but also describes his own rediscovery of a childhood toy and the impact it has had on his life. If you wanted to call the book a paean to LEGO, you wouldn't be far wrong, but don't think the audience for this utterly delightful work is limited to, well, LEGO freaks. --David Pitt

From the Inside Flap

The unofficial LEGO Museum lies hidden in Bellaire, Ohio, with millions of plastic bricks sculpted into everything from robotic bands to Dirk Nowitzki to a goat on a lifeguard tower. A secret set vault slumbers beneath a hidden panel in the original house of LEGO founder Ole Kirk Christiansen in Billund, Denmark. An eleven-foot LEGO replica of a speedboat teeters on a rickety wooden dock in Seattle, Washington, threatening to plunge and sink into the Pacific Ocean as five men struggle to keep it balanced. And in the Kansas City, Missouri, home of Jonathan Bender, a massive Star Wars LEGO set leans against the wall in a vacant room.

Jonathan comes face-to-face with all of these scenes as he explores the obsessive and diverse subculture of adult fans of LEGO (AFOLs), walking the line between art and commerce, play and Serious Play, and fantasy and real life, hoping to learn how the plastic brick of our childhoods inspires us as adults.

Awakened from the "Dark Ages"—that period of time when LEGO bricks are forgotten in a childhood closet—Bender rekindles his dream of becoming a master model builder, putting his skills to the test at adult fan conventions around the country. Here he meets fans who design their own sets, customize minifigures (LEGO people) to resemble superheroes and movie characters, and amass collections that number in the hundreds of thousands of bricks.

Bender also recruits his wife—the furniture builder in their household—to build alongside him, attempting to fill the child-size void in their lives. As their home slowly fills up with LEGO bricks, the spare bedroom swings between build room and potential nursery. Immersed in a toy-centric world without children, LEGO: A Love Story is ultimately about what it takes to build a family.

EGO: A Love Story explores what happens when the imagination of your childhood intersects with your life as an adult.

Jacket art by Nathan Sawaya, a New York–based artist who creates awe-inspiring works out of some of the most unlikely things. His work has been featured in collections across the country. His most recent North American museum tours feature large-scale sculptures using only LEGO bricks. Learn more at


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470407026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470407028
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jonathan Bender is a features writer, who is drawn to those with unconventional jobs and lives -- it is what led him to write LEGO: A Love Story and Cookies & Beer.

He has covered a female ice fisherperson while living in Brooklyn, the Heavyweight Champion of the World from Boston, and eaten pizza in a cone in Kansas City. Bender has also written extensively about entrepreneurs, getting the story behind baby toupees, robot sculpture artists, and kitty wigs.

An East Coast native, he now makes his home in Kansas City with his wife and children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Terry L on April 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't have any Lego bricks nor do I have any great desire to build anything with them, but I found this book both entertaining and enjoyable to read. The author's obvious enthusiasm for the subject shines though and draws one into the world of Lego, adult Lego builders, Lego history, and a bunch of interesting characters whose life revolves around Lego stuff.

Yes, at times, I thought some geekiness apparent in the telling of the story, yet an adult spending time building Lego gizmos does seem like a better way to spend time than, say, just sitting in front of a television set for three hours, doing nothing, while watching a bunch of rich guys throw a football around.

Anyway, this is a well-written book that, while not solving any of the world's problems, did make my life a little more enjoyable just in the reading.

Next time I am at a store with Lego sets, I am sure I will look at them in a new light. I might even buy one.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book has a fantastic cover that initially drew me to it. The idea of an adult man reconnecting with a childhood love of building bricks was also fascinating.

It's billed as a memoir, or at least that was what I thought it was, and has elements of a "project memoir" wherein the author delves into a certain subject or theme with a goal in mind. In this case, Jonathan Bender wanted to research AFOLs (adult fan of LEGO) as well as become one himself.

But I would call LEGO: A Love Story more of a researched book than a memoir. Yes, Bender shares some of his personal experiences, and the story is told through his eyes as he joins LEGO conventions and tours the headquarters in Denmark and the U.S. headquarters in Connecticut, but in general it's a feature about AFOLs and the history and future of the LEGO company.

I did learn a lot about legos. First off, you never call them "legos." LEGO is the brand, and should only be used as an adjective as in "LEGO building blocks" or "LEGO kits," or in reference to the company itself. After reading 300 pages of correct usage, I'm probably a convert and will be annoyed by everyone else's incorrect use from here on out.

I think that this book would definitely appeal to adults who play with or collect LEGO, but also to anyone who remembers LEGO fondly from their childhood. Reading this book made me happy that my son's collection is steadily growing, and honestly makes me look forward to tackling bigger projects with him.

This book could definitely be a popular Father's Day gift -- from a grown son who remembered building LEGO with his dad, or to a new father who has the opportunity to legitimize his LEGO play once again. But then again, the whole idea behind LEGO: A Love Story is that LEGO can appeal to adults in a completely unique (and legitimate) way.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Two kids mom TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is an exploration of AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego) and their relationships with each other and the LEGO company. This storyline is meshed with the authors own exploration of LEGO as an adult and the struggles of his wife and himself to conceive a child. He neatly mirrors the issues of LEGO as a child's toy and LEGO as an adult interest with his own life.

The author, Jonathan Bender, travels to LEGO conventions, to the LEGO headquarters and to such places as Legoland in order to explore how adults relate to LEGO. He describes the politics behind the relationship of the Lego company to its' adult fans and the manner in which many adults acquire and use Lego. The book is sometimes very funny but also in some ways depressing and a little hard to understand if you are not a die hard Lego fan. For example, apparently when Lego changed the grey and brown brick colors to slightly different shades this created an outrage in the adult Lego community. I suppose that unless you are very invested in Lego, this seems rather hard to comprehend and a little dispiriting.

I had thought perhaps that my own son, 14 years old and a fan of Lego, might be interested in the book. However, it is really written for adults. There are some photos, but not many, and the book really would not appeal to kids as a good part of it is devoted to the authors relationship with his wife and their attempts to start a family.

Overall, an interesting book if you are an adult fan of Lego. I would not call myself an AFOL, although I have been known to play with my kids collection (especially Mindstorms), so I am not entirely neutral about Lego.

In summary, a good book about Lego for adults, if you have some interest in Lego yourself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gregg Eldred VINE VOICE on May 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Early in LEGO: A Love Story, I found myself wondering about author Jonathan Bender's narrative. It is easy to grasp the themes of his book; exploration of the world of Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL), from the conventions to the build challenges to the interesting people that make up the LEGO community; a well researched look inside LEGO, from the corporate headquarters to the LEGOLAND amusement parks; a personal odyssey as one person attempts to rekindle his love of LEGO and building with bricks while trying to build something more - a family. However, the early chapters seemed choppy. Bender's central idea within a chapter made sense, but he would include some passages that did not seem to fit. Suspect editing is how I rationalized the early chapters because once I started on the latter half of the book, it flowed much better and I was rewarded with a much better book. A book that rekindled my own fascination with LEGO bricks, love of building, and a need to share the LEGO experience with my own in-house LEGO builder, one whom has not succumbed to the Dark Ages (the period of time when a person does not play with LEGO bricks, usually starting at age 13. Many do not recover from this period and never build with LEGO bricks again.).Read more ›
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