Saturday, November 28, 2009

Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

(hb; 2005: non-fiction; precedent work to SuperFreakonomics)

From the inside flap:

"What is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents eally matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?

"These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much heralded scholar who studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life -- from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing -- and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. He usually begins with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

" . . What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and -- if the right questions are asked -- is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking. Steven Levitt, through devilishly clever and clear-eyed thinking, shows how to see through all the clutter."

Review:

Entertaining, off-beat, real-world smart, logical and compelling read, with eye-catching chapter titles: "What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?"; "How Is The Klu Klux Klan Like a Group of Real Estate Agents?"; "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?", etc.

The authors back up their flashy chapter titles with solid, economist-minded reasoning -- some of controversial on multiple levels -- that, for this reader, ultimately rings true, and has made this already-wary reader even more wary (but not in a negative way)... even the darkest truths contained in Freakonomics are presented with a skilled, deft hand.

Own this, if you're willing to set aside your preconceptions of how people, society, morality, etc., work, and entertain a cooler (as in: more rational) view of how things work.

<em>Phantom</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb;  2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett .) From the back cover...