If there is an AFoL (“Adult Fan of LEGO”) in your life–or an über-nerdy LEGO kid–then No Starch Press’s two Unofficial Lego Builder’s Guides are must-buys.
I’ve lauded Allan Bedford’s UNOFFICIAL LEGO BUILDER’S GUIDE in the past; it’s an *exhaustive* treatment of all of the structural and design possibilities (both practical and theoretical) inherent to the LEGO System, as well as a handy reference work on parts, build techniques, and design styles.
This second edition offers a lightly revised text and a complete full-color makeover. It’s really, really pretty. My only beef is that it’s also almost 100 pages shorter than its predecessor, although I’m not sure how freak-out worthy that is: It’s pretty clear that the new tidier layout and slightly more compact typesetting is responsible for some of that shrink, and is balanced by the fact that No Starch has gone with a nicer semi-gloss paper stock, making this a more exciting gift item or coffee table book. That said, the second edition *did* loose several chapters–albeit ones that may have come off as filler to some readers (one was on brick storage and pre-build preparation, the other on crafting a few handy tools for building. I can see a lot of folks who aren’t sociologically interested in what’s happening in an AFoL’s head skipping these). The one omission that did bother me was the loss of the brief chapter on LEGO Technic. Fortunately, No Starch has compensated for that with:
THE UNOFFICIAL LEGO TECHNIC BUILDER’S GUIDE by Pawel Kmiec (whose name’s spelling I’ve had to approximate, as it calls for several letters I can’t readily located among the Special Characters).
Oh. My. GOD! This book is simply *incredible.* Like Bedford’s book it’s in beautiful full color, but where Bedford is chatty Kmiec is concise and textbookish (in a good way). Pages are dominated by excellent illustrations. It’s the engineering textbook Technic always needed, delving in to *how* Technic builds work and the intricacies of their designs (which are wholly unexplored in the Technic sets themselves, which include pictograph LEGO build instructions with no discussion of how a mechanism works or why a design decision was made). Kmiec offers some brilliant insights into, for example, the need for (and methods of) offsetting pieces by a half-stud, or the differing reinforcement methods available to modern LEGO Technic geeks. His discussion of mating traditional Technic bricks and the newer stud-less beams for sturdy, compact, and attractive builds is both an easy and informative read.
All told, this book is *beyond* exhaustive–at 320+ pages the damn think weighs in at over two-and-a-half pounds. Heck, there are *two* chapters dedicated solely to LEGO’s awesome pneumatic system, including several full BIs (build instructions) for pneumatic engines–and that’s just one facet of this gem. There are pages upon pages of BIs for linkages, differentials, couplings, transmissions (including one for a ten-speed transmission–it runs nearly 30 pages!) and more. If there’s a LEGO Technic fan in your life, this book is just about guaranteed to knock him or her out cold.
(DISCLOSURE: These titles are all from my publisher, who sent me review copies of a mess of books; these are the stand-outs for the Non-Denominational Gift-Giving Holiday Season, in my humble. I wasn’t otherwise compensated for these reviews–except for that I got a mess of free books/ebooks.)