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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Monday, September 26, 2005
Book Review -- Freakonomics
A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Freakonomics is a bit like Seinfeld. It's a book about nothing. But the authors admit to this from the start. Or at least it's a book not about any one thing. It has no unifying theme unless you count a brilliant economist using huge databases to find surprising answers to offbeat questions a unifying theme. Each chapter is a look at a different problem and its unexpected answers, for example: many sumo wrestlers cheat, swimming pools are more dangerous to children than guns, and there's not much that parents can do that increases their children's chance to succeed. It's a very quick and enjoyable read and it has interesting lessons for the way facts tend to upend our preconceptions. It's also much shorter and much more entertaining than the other non-fiction books I've reviewed here.
Previous book reviews:
The Bell Curve Doctor Bean
Ender's Game Ralphie
Guns, Germs, and Steel Doctor Bean
Ender's Game Doctor Bean
One Book List Oven
Sounds like a fun read! : )
I'll second Bean's positive review. The authors also have a blog at their website and have articles in the NYTimes Magazine from time to time.

You might have heard of this book because of the controversy surrounding its claim that the legalization of abortion led to lower crime rates (if you read the book it's very likely you'll take the authors' word that they do not mean to be political about it). Very interesting stuff.

However, in some of the cases in the book and in their NYT articles, there's often cause to take their conclusions with a grain of salt. A recent article about child car safety seats seemed a little sloppy and potentially dangerous if it encourages parents to be lax in using the seats. And in the book, the section about predicting children's academic success almost sounded like doing things such as reading to your kids or taking them to museums was pointless in general, not just as an indicator of school progress...

That said, it is a fascinating book and reads real quick-like.
Irina: Admit it. We've transformed your life in magical ways!

Ralphie: I had no idea about their blog. Thanks! It's got some interesting stuff on dieting, and acne, and a million other odd studies.
OOH, Acne.... Now THAT I gotta read (not that *I* have a problem or anything...)
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