January 25, 2006

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

orange in apple peel.  Get it?I had a gajillion different people tell me that I had to read this book. And it's certainly got interesting bits. If you're one of the few people who hasn't read the book or heard the hype, Leavitt is a relatively young and brilliant economist whose most visible skill is in asking interesting questions and then using available data to find out the real answers. Questions highlighted in the book include "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?" and "Where have all the criminals gone?"

I enjoyed the book, but there were parts of it that bugged me. The main annoyance was the way that they posed questions, gave the actual answers and then told the exciting story of finding the answers. I just would have found the story much more exciting if the answer hadn't been revealed beforehand. I suppose some of the answers were so non-intuitive that I was supposed to disbelieve them until they proved them to me, but I'm really good at suspension of disbelief and read pretty much every book as if it were gospel truth (at least in the context of the book.) My other gripe is that there's really very little of an arc to the book. To their credit they warned me right up front that there wasn't going to be one. But there was kind of a half-hearted arc in that there were principles highlighted at different points that kind of felt like they might fit together in an overall theme, but didn't. I think I would have preferred it if the book had been a series of completely standalone essays.

Okay, I'm kind of being grumpy here. The book really is very interesting and brings out a lot of cool counter-intuitive results through the application of the science of economics. If you don't understand the difference between correlation and causality before you start you should have a pretty good grasp by the time you're done. Plus you'll know what some school teachers have in common with some sumo wrestlers.

Posted by jeffy at January 25, 2006 11:33 PM
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