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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

No, I have not read Steven B. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything before now.  Surprise!

I went ahead and read both books at once so you can enjoy a double post here.  Happy day!

The first book is a collection of connected essays on subjects such as what predicts a child's success, how legalized abortion is directly correlated with the mid-90's drop in crime, and the danger difference between handguns and swimming pools.  Levitt is a "rogue economist", meaning that he asks questions no other economists think of.  Dubner is a writer, and an interesting one at that.  They combined forces to put together a book that looks at what happens when you make economics interesting.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should By Life Insurance is Levitt and Dubner's follow-up to their super well-selling first book. 

This sequel of sorts follows the same set-up as book numero uno, exploring subjects such as the similarities between prostitutes and department store Santas, the added values of pimps and realtors, and super cool things that can be done to save the planet--for pennies in comparison to the high-tech proposals.

Overall I enjoyed these books even if I did find myself quite frustrated often with the connections made on shaky correlations and tunnel vision on their conclusions.  It sometimes felt as though they were stuck on their conclusions only and left little-to-no room for mitigating factors.  The second book was far less guilty of the "correlation equals causation" jump-to-conclusions-ness that I often felt haunted the first book.  I did learn some fun facts though--the most exciting one being that kangaroo farts don't contain methane, therefore creating fewer greenhouse gases and being more environmentally sound.  This all being said, I won't deny that this pair writes an intriguing and beguiling narrative that keeps you reading.

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