From Chuck Taylors to Run-D.M.C.’s shoestringless, shell-toe Adidas, sneakers have been an urban status symbol for as long as I can remember. In many cities, the pursuit of the finest athletic footwear exploded out of control in the mid-’80s when it became a common occurrence to be robbed, injured, or killed for a pair of $108 Michael Jordan basketball sneakers. Even fearing for their lives, many young shoe admirers still refused to drop out of the competition. If only they had known that their fetish was being created and manipulated by big business. Tom Vanderbilt’s The Sneaker Book provides a frequently humorous, but more often startling, look at the details behind the athletic shoe industry, from shady manufacturing processes to phenomenal marketing campaigns. The paperback, first in a series focusing on popular consumer goods from the not-for-profit New Press, contains the history of the sneaker (“1895: Joseph Foster founds Reebok in England”), profiles of the major players (“Nike’s 1996 sales: $5,008,000,000”), and, of course, an interview with Run-D.M.C. (“when we put on our Adidas we said we was never gonna take ’em off.”) See what brand Vanderbilt sports when he discusses and signs copies of his book at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (Neil Drumming)