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Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain [Large Print] [Paperback]

Steven D. Levitt , Stephen J. Dubner
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Jun 2014

From the rule-breaking authors of international bestsellers Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, this is the ultimate guide to how to Think Like a Freak

The Freakonomics books have come to stand for something: challenging conventional wisdom; using data rather than emotion to answer questions; and learning to unravel the world's secret codes. Now Levitt and Dubner have gathered up what they have learned and turned it into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking differently - thinking, that is, like a Freak. Whether you are interested in the best way to improve your odds in penalty kicks, or in major global reforms, here is a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems.

Along the way, you'll learn how the techniques of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion can help you, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they're from Nigeria, and why Van Halen's demanding tour contract banning brown M&Ms was really a safety measure. You'll learn why sometimes it's best to put away your moral compass, and smarter to think like a child. You will be given a master class in incentives-because for better or worse, incentives rule our world. And you will learn to quit before you fail, because you can't solve tomorrow's problem if you aren't willing to abandon today's dud.

Levitt and Dubner see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing-and so much fun to read.

Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, given to the most influential American economist under the age of forty. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy.

Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career-as an almost-rock-star-to become a writer. He has worked for The New York Times and published three non-Freakonomics books. He lives with his family in New York City.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Product details

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • Publisher: HarperLuxe; Lgr edition (3 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006227841X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062278418
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,624,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

In one of the many wonderful moments in Think Like a Freak, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner ask the question: Who is easier to fool-kids or adults? The obvious answer, of course, is kids. The cliché is about taking candy from a baby, not a grown man. But instead of accepting conventional wisdom as fact, the two sit down with the magician Alex Stone-someone in the business of fooling people-and ask him what he thinks. And his answer? Adults.

Stone gave the example of the staple of magic tricks, the "double lift," where two cards are presented as one. It's how a magician can seemingly bury a card that you have selected at random and then miraculously retrieve it. Stone has done the double lift countless times in his career, and he says it is kids-overwhelmingly-who see through it. Why? The magician's job is to present a series of cues-to guide the attention of his audience-and adults are really good at following cues and paying attention. Kids aren't. Their gaze wanders. Adults have a set of expectations and assumptions about the way the world works, which makes them vulnerable to a profession that tries to exploit those expectations and assumptions. Kids don't know enough to be exploited. Kids are more curious. They don't overthink problems; they're more likely to understand that the basis of the trick is something really, really simple. And most of all-and this is my favorite-kids are shorter than adults, so they quite literally see the trick from a different and more revealing angle.

Think Like a Freak is not a book about how to understand magic tricks. That's what Dubner and Levitt's first two books-Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics-were about. It's about the attitude we need to take towards the tricks and the problems that the world throws at us. Dubner and Levitt have a set of prescriptions about what that attitude comes down to, but at its root it comes down to putting yourself in the mind of the child, gazing upwards at the double lift: free yourself from expectations, be prepared for a really really simple explanation, and let your attention wander from time to time.

The two briefly revisit their famous argument from their first book about the link between the surge in abortions in the 1970s and the fall in violent crime twenty years later. Their point is not to reargue that particular claim. It is to point out that we shouldn't avoid arguments like that just because they leave us a bit squeamish. They also tell the story of the Australian doctor Barry Marshall, who overturned years of received wisdom when he proved that ulcers are caused by gastric bacteria, not spicy food and stress. That idea was more than heretical at first. It was absurd. It was the kind of random idea that only a child would have. But Dubner and Levitt's point, in their utterly captivating new book, is that following your curiosity-even to the most heretical and absurd end-makes the world a better place. It is also a lot of fun.

(Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink)) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, given to the most influential American economist under the age of forty. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy.

Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career-as an almost-rock-star-to become a writer. He has worked for The New York Times and published three non-Freakonomics books. He lives with his family in New York City.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Economics meets self-help? 13 May 2014
By Nicholas J. R. Dougan VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I didn’t get around to reading Freakonomics until 2007, but loved it, and immediately read Superfreakonomics, which while also good was less remarkable. It did draw me to the blog, and latterly the podcast which I download and listen to each week. When Dubner and Leavitt (D&L) announced their third book, I was happy to pre-order. (Pretty annoying that we Brits had to wait a whole extra day to get it – in the US it was released at just after midnight on Monday 12 May, it didn’t become available in Britain until the 13th!) That having been said, it downloaded onto my Kindle this morning and I’ve read it cover to cover.

“The plural of anecdote is not data”, the authors remind us, and I suppose that the one criticism I would level at this book is that quite a lot of the characteristics of “Freak” thinkers are based on singular or occasional observations by the authors and their many collaborators/cited sources. While the earlier books focussed mainly on Professor Leavitt’s research into criminal and other rule breaking activities and referenced what were clearly large data sets, that seems to be less the case here. This is a book that is based as much on psychology as it is on economics and statistics, although there is a light sprinkling of economic concepts - sunk costs, opportunity costs, incentives to name just a few.

This book is a manual of sorts to help thinking about the way that the authors do. There is a slight feel of a self-help book, but with such laid back authors, there’s no feeling of being presented with an insurmountable challenge – the first bit of advice to help you “Think like a Freak” is to admit you don’t know, and the last is to quit if you want to – it might make you happier.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short and again not as good as Freakonomics 9 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very quick read. While better than the flawed Superfreakonomics it is very different from the original book. Fewer examples and interesting pieces, more a companion to the first book and covering much the same ground as their podcast.

If you pick this up cheap it's worth the hour or two it'll take you to read, but if you've not read Freakonomics that is the book to go for.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but fun 29 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Think Like a Freak is a pretty short, enjoyable book which you can finish in an afternoon. If you've enjoyed either of the other books (Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics) by the same authors, you'll probably like this one, as it contains the same blend of anecdote and scientific speculation that made those books such a runaway phenomenon. The cleverest things about these books, and the one I'm reviewing, is the author's ability to tell a good anecdote, which, after all, is the core of any successful self-help book from Dale Carnegie onwards. People want to read all the interesting stories that demonstrate the principles the authors are referring to, as much as they want to hear and apply those principles themselves. It's a lot of fun. That said, TLAF is a short and parasitic book, that largely bases its existence on its predecessors, without offering much that is new or substantial. The core principles of 'thinking like a freak' that the authors espouse are the usual tenets of lateral thinking. What most people will enjoy this book for is rather the sheer entertaining quality of the writing: the writers can spin a social science experiment like it is a mini thriller, so you can't wait to turn the page and see what happens next. That is the secret of their success, I would suggest, far more than any of the freakish principles they refer to in the book. It won't change your life, but it will make your bus journey quite fun.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs Some New Material 9 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love the Freakonomics school of thinking but there's really not nearly enough new material in this latest book to justify its publication. The basic premise of practical application of the principles learned from previous studies is fair enough but if you've read the two previous you won't really be learning a great deal more than you already knew.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sparks of previous genius only 6 Jun 2014
By GSC
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Too short, interesting as previous books were. Unfortunately, feels lightweight compared with previous books. Personally I was disappointed. Contains a few real gems however and overall I enjoyed it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
In their latest book, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner cite several examples of people who trick guilty parties (i.e. those who prey upon people who are ignorant and/or gullible) into unwittingly revealing their guilt through their own behavior. Here are three examples:

o Two women appealed to King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of a newborn. Unable to decide, he ordered the child to be cut in half and divided equally. One woman embraced the idea. He knew immediately that the other woman who begged him to let the other have the child was in fact its mother.

o Rock star David Lee Roth of the Van Halen group has a 53-page list of technical and security requirements. One in the Munchies section specifies "M&Ms (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)." Immediately upon arrival, he checks the jar. "If he saw brown ones, he knew the promoter hadn't read the rider [to the otherwise standard contract) -- and that 'we had to do a serious line check to make sure that the most important details hadn't been botched either."

o So-called "Nigerian scammers" send millions of email messages each month to millions of people throughout the world. (It's called the "Nigerian scam" because more than half of the messages invoke Nigeria than all of the other emails combined.) I have received 3-5 each week in recent years. The "Beloved friend" message is always illiterate and ludicrous. Stupid, right? Not so fast. According to Levitt and Dubner, the Nigerian scammers know that almost everyone who receives a message will ignore it. But if only one in a hundred recipients provides the requested bank information....

"The ridiculous-sounding Nigerian emails seem to be quite good at getting the scammers' massive garden to weed itself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it! Its funny and educational
Love it! Its funny and educational, even if some of the information is not particularly useful. Can be used as table topics to spark off some pretty interesting conversations.
Published 6 days ago by A. Ko
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read
great book but a bit short! these guys are good fun and inspiring, but as I had read most of the stories in the book -in the Guardian before I wanted more!
Published 8 days ago by Rozbooks
4.0 out of 5 stars Both funny and informative - like a clown with a thesaurus
Levitt and Dubner have done it again, a brilliantly entertaining book that simply explains the economic approach the authors adopt in the first two books. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Simon Partington
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
So very clearly and logically explained.
Published 16 days ago by Seville
4.0 out of 5 stars it provides good entertainment and also good education
The book is well written and very enjoyable. I did expect more out of it to be honest, I didn't read his previous books so I had no frame of reference other than the book... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Robert Baboi
5.0 out of 5 stars recipient pleased.
Bought as a gift, recipient pleased.
Published 17 days ago by Estelle Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good
Published 18 days ago by dido
4.0 out of 5 stars A book recycled from the podcasts, and why not.
Mostly recycled from the podcasts. Nothing wrong with that, but if you listen to the podcast you don't need this book. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Roland Hanbury
3.0 out of 5 stars for those who follows the freakonomics podcasts most of the topics and...
for those who follows the freakonomics podcasts most of the topics and examples have already been covered there. Still fun to read though
Published 20 days ago by osen11
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
First chapter was engaging, thereafter it just seemed smug.
Published 22 days ago by n.g.clayton
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