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About Jenga: The Remarkable Business of Creating a Game that Became a
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2010
Jenga, one of the world's classic games, has sold over 50 million sets and its appeal shows no sign of slackening. Many of those who, like me, have spent happy hours, breath held, adding bricks to its tottering towers or whooping with delight as a rival brought the whole edifice toppling down, must have wondered what lay behind this fascinating game - just who invented it and why and how it became such an international phenomenon. In this wonderful book I found all the answers and much more.

Leslie Scott, its inventor, reveals the roots of Jenga (`Build!' in Swahili) in the games her ex-pat family played in 1950s Kenya. But it was one Sunday morning as an under-employed macramé-teacher in 1970s East Oxford that she woke up and realised its commercial possibilities. About Jenga tells of the challenges and obstacles she overcame on the way to making her dream reality - the collisions with bank managers and debt collectors, predatory agents and big-time players, sinister flatterers and shady copycats as well as the unexpected allies and good angels who helped her on the path to success.

Reading it, I realised I had at last found a model business book - one with a human face, rich in lessons for entrepreneurs and all those seeking to take a new idea to market, but written with great wit, learning and fluent clarity and blessedly free of the jargon or the self-deluding vanity that disfigures so many of the books in this area.

Embedded in it I also found much more - a moving family memoir, not to mention a vivid and personal chunk of social history over the last four decades, telling how Leslie Scott took her first faltering steps in the then male-dominated world of business.

This makes About Jenga sound portentous and does not do justice to the many delightful comic vignettes studding its pages. I almost rolled on the floor with laughter reading about one incident, when Scott, then Intel's first UK marketing manager, shared premises with the Potato Marketing Board. One day a Board representative marched in and plonked down a sack of a new type of spuds and asked her in all seriousness to report on their suitability for the new culinary product - microchips - that he had heard she was preparing.

Circling out from her experiences, Scott - an unusual and engaging blend of businesswoman and Oxford intellectual - offers interesting reflections on the role of branding not just in business but also in art, history and nature (she devotes, incidentally, some of her earnings from Jenga to supporting a zoological and ecological research station in Kenya), on metaphor and the larger relationship between games, life and business.

How best to characterise this strange, multifaceted book? Perhaps as the journey of an intelligent, if somewhat naïve and Candide-like, young woman through an Alice-in-Wonderland world and her attempts, then and now, to make sense of it. Buy it, read it. Like the game it celebrates, I predict it could well become a cult classic. With its humour, rich layering and period background, it would make a fabulous film or TV docu-drama. Agents and producers, please note.
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on 4 December 2013
Not only is this an fantastic book about how Jenga, a world famous game, was brought to market and the designers trials and tribulations along the way but it also gives insights into how the board game world runs. Excellent and a must read for anyone interested in Jenga or the games world in general.
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