Book Review: Shoe Dog

Feb 3, 2017

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of Phil Knight’s "Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the creator of Nike.”

Two weeks into our federal oligarchy of the ultra-wealthy, I thought it might be timely to review the recent autobiography by Phil Knight.  Perhaps immersing myself in the story of the richest person in Oregon would broaden understanding across our socioeconomic divides.  

I quickly learned that Phil Knight is an older rich white man from a very different mold – introspective, driven, highly ethical, fascinated by other cultures.  And perhaps most importantly, self-made, with strong – and modest – Oregon roots.

While parts of Knight’s story will be familiar to many KLCC listeners, it’s still fascinating reading, particularly the early years.  While getting an undergraduate journalism degree from the University of Oregon, Knight ran for legendary track coach, Bill Bowerman.  After getting a Stanford MBA and an enlightening trip around the world, he worked as an accountant while beginning a startup shoe company, Blue Ribbon Sports, with his old coach.  

Gradually assembling a quirky inner circle, the company struggled through financial crunches, quality control problems, cross-cultural misunderstandings, and exhaustively rapid growth, eventually morphing into the Nike of today.  And the writing is competent.  No ghost writer here!

The memoir begins with a quotation from Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”  By the end of his tale, it’s clear that despite his phenomenal success as a shoe dog, Knight still considers himself a beginner in the art of living.

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing "Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight.