The LEGO Story: How a Little Toy Sparked the World’s Imagination – the English translation of Et Liv Med LEGO – is the authorised biography of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen and a history of the LEGO Group. Blocks reviews the new book to see if it ‘s an essential addition to your LEGO bookshelf.
Blocks magazine has been covering the 90th anniversary of the LEGO Group in 2022, with a special issue and articles throughout the year looking back at LEGO history. It therefore seems fitting that the year should be closing out with the English language release of The LEGO Story – an authorised history of the Kirk Kristiansen family and, inevitably, the little company that they founded. It’s available to pre-order now and will be released on November 15 in the USA and November 24 in the UK.
Titled Et Liv Med LEGO (Life in LEGO) in Denmark, the book is clearly a biography of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. For the English language edition, the title has been changed to The LEGO Story: How a Little Toy Sparked the World’s Imagination, perhaps because Kjeld Kirk is a less well-known figure internationally (sacrilegious as that might be for LEGO fans to hear).
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The life of Kjeld and his family is intertwined with the history of the LEGO Group though – so this book goes all the way back to the beginning and tells the story of how three generations of the Kirk Kristiansen (or Christiansen) shaped the company. Jens Andersen – who has authored biographies for the Danish royal family and other significant figures from the Nordic country – must have meticulously researched the family’s history, as he has unearthed details from Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s time in the early 1900s that have not been published before.
As this is an authorised biography though, Kjeld’s voice is present throughout. Direct, lengthy quotes from the man who shaped the modern LEGO company reveal his reflections on the events that Jens Andersen is presenting. These are absolutely fascinating, sometimes providing an amusing bit of colour, sometimes giving his perspective from the time and sometimes – in the book’s most interesting passages – giving his reflections now on what occurred decades prior.
Whether it’s assessing his own management style, finding more empathy for his father’s workload or revealing more about his family than he has done before, Kjeld is surprisingly candid throughout The LEGO Story. He doesn’t hold back from discussing his difficult relationship with his father Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, which proved particularly fractious after Kjeld took over the company.
The difficulties between Kjeld and Godtfred will be the thread in The LEGO Story that is newest to those who already know a lot about the company’s history, but that is far from the only part that will pique the interest of LEGO fans. The book goes into more detail about Ole Kirk’s struggles getting the company off the ground, Godtfred pushing through new initiatives at a breakneck pace and Kjeld navigating illness while trying to keep the company profitable in the 1990s.
What The LEGO Story balances so well are the various strands of LEGO history that are so fascinating. There’s the story of the LEGO Group as a company, how it grew from a few staff in a rural Danish town to thousands of employees around the world. There’s the story of the philosophy of play, how each generation of the owning family continued to build on the company’s purpose. There’s the very human story of how generations of a family feel a burning desire, as well as a responsibility, to build on and safeguard their parents’ legacy.
The LEGO Story is absolutely essential reading for every LEGO fan. If you know nothing about the company and founding family’s history, then this is the perfect starting point. If you already know a lot of it, then this is packed with new information that you haven’t heard before. Whatever you do though, make sure you finish any urgent build projects before you start reading – this pacey, enjoyable book is really hard to put down.