My book club just met to discuss Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, a book that has been around for ages but I have somehow avoided reading up until now. I think I assumed this book would be dry, boring or simply not something that would interest me. Needless to say, I was wrong!
Another example of why I am thankful for a book club that continually pushes me outside of my literary comfort zones!
Here’s a quick description of the book from goodreads.com:
“Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections.”
First off, this is a very readable book and I read it much faster than I would have expected. The extended / expanded edition contains a bunch of extra articles and blog posts that they’ve written since their book was originally published which makes the book look larger than it is really.
I found the book to be nowhere near as dry as you might expect and ocasionally laugh out loud funny or thought provokingly interesting. The authors touch upon subjects that would be of interest to most people like the actual effects of good or bad parenting, how to detect if a teacher is helping her kids cheat on state exams, why drug dealers still live with their parents, why crime rates dropped unexpectedly and what a baby name might tell you about said baby’s parents and the baby’s expected life.
Of course all of the “answers” in this book are just statistical probabilities and not hard and fast truths. I’m sure there are lots of exceptions to the rules and probably other angles at which you could look at some of these questions as well that might result in different answers. But I loved the overall concept of the book: the idea of looking at a question differently and not taking information at face value is definitely a useful thing to keep in mind.
The book definitely brought about a lively and interesting book club discussion. I’d say by and large, most of the members of my group enjoyed the book at least a little. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s been on the fence and considering reading it.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?