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Dear Undercover Economist [Perfect Paperback]

3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Perfect Paperback
  • ISBN-10: 0748112022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0748112029
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Tim Harford is a member of the Financial Times editorial board. His column, 'The Undercover Economist', which reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences, is published in the Financial Times and Slate. He is also the only economist in the world to run a problem page, 'Dear Economist'. Tim presented the BBC television series 'Trust Me, I'm an Economist' and now presents the BBC radio series 'More or Less'. His writing has appeared in Esquire, Forbes, New York magazine, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Tim won the 2006 Bastiat Prize for economic journalism and is also an award-winning speaker.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words of wisdom from the world of economics 20 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover
Most of us will be familiar with the agony aunt format of newspapers and magazines: correspondents share their woes with a concerned, no-nonsense columnist who offers suggested ways of dealing with said woes. These can range from the heartbreaking to the laughable, and are addressed with varying levels of solemnity, depending on the the agony aunt's brief and inclinations.

In the Financial Times, the format is slightly different. Rather than offering homilies or pseudo-psychological buzzwords, the agony aunt -- or perhaps uncle, in this case -- uses current economic theories to clarify just what letter-writers are concerned about and provide a close analysis of which solutions offer the greatest benefit. Dear Undercover Economist is a collection of the best, most informative, or at least the most amusing, letters from his file.

In essence, it offers a variation on Harford's goal in his previous books, of making economics accessible to, and as far as possible entertaining for, the general populace. He once again achieves this with aplomb, and the book is a worthy addition both to his works and my shelves.

Unlike The Undercover Economist or The Logic of Life, though, the bite-sized format offered by the letters and responses in this latest book make it very easy to dip in and out. In line with the space constraints of a newspaper column, issues are addressed in a couple of hundred words rather than a chapter or two, which through the course of the book demonstrates just how broad a sweep economics can have -- and how specifically it can help us weigh up pros and cons in a given situation. Should you need insight into a problem of your own, input will be easy to find, too, thanks to letters being handily grouped by category.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A brand-extension too far 13 Oct 2009
By Bob Lee
Format:Hardcover
I had read and enjoyed 'The Undercover Economist', so I didn't hesitate to buy 'Dear Undercover Economist'. Bad mistake! This is a 'best of' collection of letters written to Harford looking for his quirky economist's take (or 'advice') on everyday problems, dilemnas, and questions. The first few responses are mildly amusing, but the humour wears thin by page 20, and is distinctly boring by page 30! If you haven't read 'The Undercover Economist', buy it now. But if you're considering buying 'Dear Undercover Economist', save your time and money. This book is an ill-considered attempt to cash-in on the success of the original, and it just doesn't work!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but variable 29 Mar 2010
Format:Hardcover
The format is `agony aunt' style letters recycled from Harford's `Dear Economist' column in the Financial Times. Each letter is answered in economist-speak, often supported by apparently genuine if improbable research, in a droll and rather witty style. My fiancée for example liked the description of an engagement ring as a "non-refundable deposit". The first section on love and dating "Should I fake my orgasms?" is perhaps the weakest, but don't let that put you off: it definitely picks up a bit later. I noticed a similar unevenness in The Undercover Economist. Hartford really needs to get a better editor, but if anything this was better written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Simultaneously entertaining and annoying 1 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just like a book by Jeremy Clarkson, this one has to be read in small doses. The collation of letters and responses into categories which are chapters means it all feels "samey". The slightly tongue-in-cheek style is fun to read in little bites, but you can't make a session of it.

It's perhaps also a step too far - The Undercover Economist was a great work that made economics very accessible to the majority, this however, doesn't take the time to explain things in enough detail to make it worthwhile as an educating read.

Still entertaining, but I was expecting more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The strength of this book is twofold: first, each letter I short and can be read when you have five minutes to spare. The second is as an illustration of the variety of issues it is possible to apply economic theory. For those who have never had theoretical economic training, or found it to be too abstract, this book presents many concepts with an entertaining twist. To enjoy the book, one has to accept the premise of the answers, namely that Harford will use economics to answer the question, regardless of how suited the framework may, or may not be.
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