Book review: Toy Stories (James May)


Since I was forced to rest a bit this week, I finally had the time to finish this book. Even though it’s not hardcore tech, it still tickled my Nerd interest so here’s my review.

Toy Stories by James May (of Top Gear fame) gives the background stories and detailed information to accompany the highly recommended BBC series of the same name.

The premise is that May takes 6 toys from his youth and applies them on a massive scale in today’s world. The toys are:

  • Plasticine
  • Meccano
  • Airfix
  • Hornby model railway
  • Scalextric (racing)
  • Lego

The complete history of (and stories behind) each toy is described, which makes for detailed but interesting reading material. After this, there are some behind the scenes looks at each individual “stunt”. Most of this material does not duplicate of the TV series so watching the episodes is recommended for the full picture.

I’ve really enjoyed this book, especially the “Build a full size bridge from Meccano”, “Recreate an old railway line with H0 gauge trains and rails” and “Build a full size house from Lego” chapters. Even the toys that I have no affinity with (for instance Plasticine) were fun to read about just because of the informal (and sometimes funny) writing style of James May. The history of each toy comes to life and is put in a proper perspective with regard to the time they were invented.

The only negative note is the last chapter on Lego, it seems a bit rushed and is not as detailed as the rest of the chapters. For the rest, it’s a fun book to read and it is illustrated with a lot of nice pictures. Highly recommended!