- Fizzy Thoughts: Freakonomics

Freakonomics

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
2005
6 hours, 26 minutes (audio book)

Another audio book! This one was fun to listen too...and I've never even considered myself a fan of economics. In fact, I loathed statistics in college, and since both involve numbers and complicated thinking, this really could have gone either way. I was actually bummed that the audio book ended so soon.

So a journalist (Steven with a v) and an economist (Stephen with a ph) meet. V discovers Ph has some pretty radical and interesting ideas, resulting in this book. And okay, so it probably didn't happen exactly like that, but you get the idea.

Then, they make the audio book, and V narrates it. Which is cool, because he throws in some asides about the authors. He also makes a good narrator, and I like it when the authors narrate their own work (as long as they manage to do a good job...and so far, I haven't had to fire anyone for lack of narrative skills. Although Toni Morrison's voice is almost too beautiful...I lose myself in the sound and then end up losing the story.).

Whoops, got sidetracked. So...

Some of my favorite (and by favorite I mean intriguing, make you go hmmmm) things from the book:

  • The idea that Roe v Wade is responsible for the decrease in violent crime. (And this is NOT an invitation to debate abortion in the comments...we will NOT go there on this blog. Don't make me delete you.)
  • Names as predictors of your destiny - and the two brothers...one named Loser (for reals!) who grew up to be a cop and the other named Winner who grew up and ended up in jail.
  • Why you won't get rich trying to break into the upper echelon of a crack gang. Interesting side note here...the sociologist who is featured in this story has a book out now. I saw the book at Borders the other day, and it's about how he spent years studying this crack gang. The book is Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Venkatesh. If you ever forget, like I did, just google crack gang sociologist...it's the first result.
There are also discussions on popular baby names, overly zealous parenting and the Ku Klux Klan. This is definitely not your stuffy boring economics text (sorry economists) from college.

I'm actually a bit reluctant to make a blanket recommendation on this one, because I'm sure some would find it boring, others might think the findings suspect, and others would just go WTF? However, if you like the occasional non-fiction book, hate economics but think freakonomics is the coolest word, and like out of the box thinking, then hey...give it a whirl.

17 comment(s):

Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

I really enjoyed this one too. I read it awhile back (maybe 2006?) and actually met Steven Levitt at a book signing event. He did a whole Q & A about the book. Very entertaining guy!

J.S. Peyton said...

I've had this on my bookshelf for at least three years now. I keep meaning to make time for it, but for some reason I keep forgetting. Maybe this year? We'll see.

Valerie said...

I'm one who really enjoyed this book (I have the earlier edition, I think the new one has additional information?). The baby names chapter was the most interesting to me!

Charley said...

I enjoyed The Tipping Point, and I recall thinking this one sounded interesting too. I've started-but-stopped a few other economics books, but maybe I'll give this one a try.

heatherlo said...

I read this book years ago and really enjoyed it! Great review.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

I also loved this one and thought the authors did a great job bringing topics that could be boring to life. It's an interesting companion read to The Tipping Point, since they tackle some of the same issues but respond to them differently, but I think this one is much more substantive and well-written. Gladwell is flashy, but these guys really know their stuff.

Belle said...

Great review - I hadn't thought about getting this book, but I think I might now. It makes economics sound fun!

farmlanebooks said...

I found this book fascinating too!

I loved the study on how your name affects your likelyhood of acheiving various things. The way they look at things from a different point of view to everyone else makes this book unique. I have given a copy of this book to lots of very different people, and they have all loved it - unlike some of my other choices!

Pam said...

Thanks for this review. I've been listening to nonfiction and reading fiction. This sounds perfect to listen to.

Ti said...

I think audio would definitely be the way to go with this one. I don't think a hard copy would hold my attention much.

Ladytink_534 said...

Before I started blogging I belonged to a ton of online reading groups and this was one of the first things I tried (and failed, only read a couple of chapters) to read for a discussion. I wonder now if I would have liked it more as an audiobook...!

Beth F said...

I haven't read the book, but I have read their blog for years. Thanks for the review.

Heather J. said...

I listened to this audiobook a while back and really enjoyed it as well. I'm not sure I agree with all the conclusions drawn but they certainly make some excellent points. Plus it was fun to listen to. :)

saveophelia said...

I'm glad you've gotten my biggest worry out of the way: it isn't boring. I hated stats in college. Not a huge numbers fan.

I'll definitely put it on hold.

Nymeth said...

I enjoyed this a lot! It's funny how I came to read it: one of those book list memes was going around, and I crossed it out as a book I had no interest in reading, and then other bloggers commented and changed my mind :P

Anyway... I didn't know about Gang Leader for a Day. It definitely sounds interesting too.

Wrighty said...

So many positive comments here, I never would have guessed that for a stats book! Your review has great highlights that I would be interested in. (It drives me nuts when parents give their kids bizarre names!) I will definitely look for this one at my library. Thanks for your review!

Joanne said...

I love this book! It would be so awesome as an audio, definitely be checking my library for this.
It must have taken me 2 weeks to read this book because I was constantly nudging the hubs and saying "hey you gotta hear this" or "Oh my god listen to this" :)

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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