RaveThe Wall Street JournalKicks serves as a comprehensive look at how much the sneaker became a signature indicator of cool, from Chuck Taylor and his Converse All-Stars to Clyde Frazier’s Pumas to Run-DMC and their Adidas to, of course, Michael Jordan. The Chicago Bulls great teamed with Spike Lee at exactly the right moment toward the beginning of each of their careers, launching Nike into the stratosphere with the simple phrase: \'It’s gotta be the shoes\' ... Mr. Smith certainly doesn’t provide the shoe-makers a pass for their business tactics. The controversies over sweatshop conditions in some of Nike’s factories, for instance, are hardly given short shrift. But for the most part, the author tracks (if you’ll forgive the pun) the industry’s history in a breezy, light way that owes more to fun historical anecdotes than to hard data, but benefits all the more from the approach ... Mr. Smith himself is a \'sneakerhead\' ... The most engaging parts of his book are those where he leans into that obsession, particularly with the book’s conclusion, which chronicles modern-day sneakerhead culture.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe book is essentially an anthology of well-reported magazine features. Mr. Dohrmann splices their stories together with interviews with sociologists who try to explain their behavior ... You get what Mr. Dohrmann is attempting to do, by putting strange fan behavior in a larger context, but in practice you just see a reporter transforming a man with a tattoo of his favorite player on his arm into a set of obscure acronyms ... I find myself wishing that Mr. Dohrmann would stop with the looking-at-fans-in-a-petri-dish-through-a-microscope act and get his hands a little dirty ... The author can only observe his crazy subjects from afar, with bewilderment, even a bit of pity. Superfans, though well reported and meticulously researched, never solves the mystery of fandom.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalRich Cohen’s affable The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse helps explain why Cubs fans are different from Red Sox fans ... Mr. Cohen lays it all out in a breezy, just-sort-of-cruising-by insta-history of the franchise, starting with its previous championship in 1908 ...to Game 7, we have become his faithful, loyal and easy companions. That game needs little embellishment, but Mr. Cohen makes us feel its drama nonetheless. His happiness ends up being our happiness.