Assume nothing, question everything.
This is the message at the heart of Freakonomics, Levitt and Dubner's rule-breaking, iconoclastic book about crack dealers, cheating teachers and bizarre baby names that turned everyone's view of the world upside-down and became an international multi-million-copy-selling phenomenon.
'Prepare to be dazzled' Malcolm Gladwell
'A sensation ... you'll be stimulated, provoked and entertained. Of how many books can that be said?' Sunday Telegraph
'Has you chuckling one minute and gasping in amazement the next' Wall Street Journal
'Dazzling ... a delight' Economist
'Made me laugh out loud' Scotland on Sunday
Forget your image of an economist as a crusty professor worried about fluctuating interest rates: Levitt focuses his attention on more intimate real-world issues, like whether reading to your baby will make her a better student. Recognition by fellow economists as one of the best young minds in his field led to a profile in the New York Times, written by Dubner, and that original article serves as a broad outline for an expanded look at Levitt's search for the hidden incentives behind all sorts of behavior. There isn't really a grand theory of everything here, except perhaps the suggestion that self-styled experts have a vested interest in promoting conventional wisdom even when it's wrong. Instead, Dubner and Levitt deconstruct everything from the organizational structure of drug-dealing gangs to baby-naming patterns. While some chapters might seem frivolous, others touch on more serious issues, including a detailed look at Levitt's controversial linkage between the legalization of abortion and a reduced crime rate two decades later. Underlying all these research subjects is a belief that complex phenomena can be understood if we find the right perspective. Levitt has a knack for making that principle relevant to our daily lives, which could make this book a hit. Malcolm Gladwell blurbs that Levitt "has the most interesting mind in America," an invitation Gladwell's own substantial fan base will find hard to resist. 50-city radio campaign.
I have the paper copy of this book and it's absolutely fantastic. Gives a very different angle to view the world from, and some of the links between everyday things are amazing! Well worth the money :)
The authors have a very high opinion of themselves and their methods as economists, and so try to apply rational choice models to all aspects of life. What they don’t realise is that they’ve produced an extremely amateur piece of sociology. Many other professionals have covered these topics - especially crime - with the thoughtfulness they deserve. (Wikipedia also tells me they acknowledged many of their findings to be wrong, but corrections were not forthcoming in the latest edition.)
A few too many repititions
Whilst the majority of this book is very insightful, the introduction, main articles, and "extras" at the end all mention the same problems and the same data. Chapters 1 & 2 are very good, but the book seems to lose it's way by chapter 4 (and chapter 6 is mainly tables of data)
A large problem is that the formatting isn't great - tables of data stretch over too many pages and the contents contains footnotes.
A good book but repetition and bad formatting spoil it.