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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy the expanded edition
This book first arrived in a blizzard of publicity back in 2005. Now 4 years on, it has been re-released in a revised and expanded edition with an extra 90 pages of bonus material (be sure to order the 336-page edition) consisting of newspaper columns and blog entries, along with a few corrections and an overall restructuring (the previous introductory magazine excerpts...
Published on 5 Jan 2009 by Steve

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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and fun, but ultimately light on content
This book does two important things - it challenges the reader to really think about the causes of things, and it makes modern economic thinking interesting and accessible to the mass audience. It's also a good, fun read, and for all these reasons it should be applauded.

In this book Steven Levitt develops ideas about a number of aspects of economic and social...
Published on 25 April 2007 by Andrew Johnston


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy the expanded edition, 5 Jan 2009
This book first arrived in a blizzard of publicity back in 2005. Now 4 years on, it has been re-released in a revised and expanded edition with an extra 90 pages of bonus material (be sure to order the 336-page edition) consisting of newspaper columns and blog entries, along with a few corrections and an overall restructuring (the previous introductory magazine excerpts to each chapter have now been consolidated into a single article and moved to the back of the book).

I found Freakonomics to be an engaging and entertaining read, albeit a fairly light one. It doesn't set out to teach or champion any particular theory or methodology; it simply takes a handful of diverse real life scenarios - parenting, the Ku Klux Klan, crack dealers, cheating school teachers, Sumo wrestlers, etc - and examines them through the lens of incentives and rewards.

This is another one of those books that shines a light on the shortcomings of human intuition and the oft-exaggerated merits of 'common sense' (in particular, the sections on how to increase voter turnout, and how to discourage late arrivals, are intriguing).

Freakonomics probably doesn't quite live up to its hype as "a phenomenon", but it remains thought-provoking and fun nonetheless. Also important to its success: it is very easy to follow. No prior knowledge of (or even interest in) economics is required.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laughing Points., 31 July 2007
By 
maya j (Quail Crossing) - See all my reviews
'Freakonomics' is a witty, irreverent book for individuals who have never been and will never be Economics theorists. It's at once hilarious and serious about applying principles of Economics to real life scenarios, and it's just so much fun to read!

Let's start by saying, don't let the title scare you. I know most people pretty much despise anything to do with Economics, and anyone with a "respectable" connection to Economics would turn a nose up at this book. But with chapters like: The Ku Klux Klan and Real Estate Agents; Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers; and Drug Dealers Living with Their Moms- I mean how awful can it be? Steven D. Levitt teaches Economics at the University of Chicago, so he is absolutely qualified to make the relational comparisons he makes, thus actually giving we Economics neophytes something to chew on. In other words, if my Economics classes in college were like this, I might have actually learned something! But seriously, 'Freaknomics' delves into how things actually are all intertwined, no matter how absurd. It's premise is that conventionally held beliefs may not always be what they seem, and many things that seem wholly apart from each other are inter-related. Other than just laughing and enjoying the witty banter of the authors, I feel like I truly learned some things, and it gave me food for thought on other issues. The chapter entitled "A Roshanda by Any Other Name" was just pitch perfect, and the chapter on parenting makes you realize that we really don't need all those parenting books after all.

'Freakonomics' is deftly written for novices and easy to read, with each chapter being basically a lesson unto itself. It's not a full-tilt Economics lesson; it's little vignettes that show us how Economics is incorporated into our everyday lives and the impact therein. You can put the book down and pick it up a month later, and there's nothing to hold you back from enjoying the next chapter. Whether you love fiction, non-fiction or poetry, you'll love this book. It is a delightful, interesting, and well thought out read.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but a bit light, 11 April 2006
As mentioned at several points, this book is an expansion of a newspaper article that the authors wrote together. It is a very interesting gallop through new and sometimes extraordinary research by both the author and other new economists. The work on drug gangs is particularly good.
However, the book is quite short and the style of writing is US magazine-lite. As a bright introduction to some of the more surprising uses of economics and statistics, it's a very good, quick read but it's all over very quickly.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and fun, but ultimately light on content, 25 April 2007
By 
Andrew Johnston "(www.andrewj.com/books)" (LEATHERHEAD United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This book does two important things - it challenges the reader to really think about the causes of things, and it makes modern economic thinking interesting and accessible to the mass audience. It's also a good, fun read, and for all these reasons it should be applauded.

In this book Steven Levitt develops ideas about a number of aspects of economic and social development which challenge received wisdom. He then both challenges traditional analyses, and offers solid support for his theories using detailed analysis of a number of unusual but highly reliable data sources.

For example, he attributes the dramatic fall of crime rates in the USA in the 1990s to greater access to abortion 20 years earlier, rather than traditional explanations like better policing. Drawing on a number of unimpeachable data sources he provides strong support for his hypothesis over more common ones.

Another fascinating chapter analyses the economics of drug dealing, and concludes that most crack dealers would be better off with regular minimum-wage jobs.

However, these are the high points, and towards the end the book starts to feel like the authors didn't have enough material for a 200 page book. There's a fair amount of repetition, and the later chapters start to feel a bit light. The last chapter, on trends in children's names, is really rather boring and tells us very little of interest.

This is a shame, because the core of the book is excellent. It will hold your interest, but don't expect a lot of pages for your money. Maybe the authors are genuinely very clever.
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64 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A look at things through the eyes of an economist., 8 Oct 2008
This book is a general interest book- and it certainly is interesting. The book, for anyone looking for an entertaining read, will like it. In a nutshell, the book takes a look at all sorts of things in society, from crack gangs to parenting, and then attempts to make sense of them by applying econonmic principles. According to the book, economics is really the study of incentives, and so using this kind of angle, the book comes up with answers to why things work the way they do.

A book that's hard to put down, I'm sure many readers will enjoy it. Also recommend The Sixty-Second Motivator for a more simplistic explanation of what motivates people and gives them incentives to do what they do.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not going to change your life, but great dinner table banter, 23 Oct 2005
By 
Matt (Lewes, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I read this book in one sitting (couldn't put it down) and the insights have since supplied me with countless evenings of fun challenging friends and family on topics include "Why do drug dealers live at home?", "When dating, what do men and women REALLY look for in a partner?", "How safe is flying in comparison with other forms of transport?", "What explains the recent dramatic crime drop in the USA?", "What qualities make the best parents?" and "Does your name you are born with dictate your success and happiness in later life?".
Some of the answers are very surprising/shocking, and then after you think about it a bit you're left thinking "well actually that makes complete sense!". What makes this book appealing is the hard data behind the research and what makes this book refreshing are the off-the-wall questions it asks, not just the answers it provides.
Downsides are few but include US focus rather than UK (though there are many parallels), farcical brown-nosing between the co-authors which makes you feel a little nauseous at times and lack of connection between all the questions into one 'power' conclusion at the end (but then perhaps that is part of this book's charm too).
Well worth reading. It won't change your life, but it will certainly challenge you to question again and most importantly help you shine at dinner parties with random interesting questions that your friends just HAVE to know the answer to! Enjoy.
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173 of 194 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The hidden side of the "Unexpected Publishing Phenomenon", 10 Aug 2005
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Hmmm. A very *interesting* (in the sense of the Middle Eastern curse) kettle of fish.

I'm not sure what co-author Dubner's role is here - either to act as an alter ego for Levitt, allowing reproduction of fawning extracts from various newspaper articles written about Levitt throughout the book (as sole author Levitt wouldn't be able to get away with this without heaping hubris on his head), or perhaps to take the material he had from his original article and pad it out into a volume just fat enough (and no more) to justify publication as a hard-back, in which case Levitt had pretty much nothing to do with this book at all. I suspect a bit of both.

Most of the few points made in this book are, at best, only moderately interesting, and there are very few of them: Freakonomics doesn't even remotely live up to its billing, managing only to explore the hidden side of about five completely discrete, and only moderately interesting, topics (statistical evidence that there's cheating in Sumo Wrestling, anyone?) Indeed, the sumo cheating data wasn't especially compelling: it seems to me there is an entirely innocent explanation for wrestlers who have already "qualified" losing an abnormally large number of bouts to statistically weaker fighters who have not: a "qualified" wrestler simply has no incentive to try particularly hard, where as a non-qualifying wrestler does. That analysis doesn't involve any collusion at all.

Elsewhere, Levitt's theorems only really work where there are huge quantities of data covering all conceivable aspects of the topic at hand. Most of the time, this just isn't the case, which is why the hidden side of everything remains, even to Levitt and Dubner, hidden.

In the cases where the data are available - like Baseball - others have done a much more compelling job of writing the economist's expose. For example, try Michael Lewis' outstanding Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

Mean time, this one joins Lynne Truss's Eats shoots and leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation as the latest in a long line of quick-buck publishing pan-flashes.

Perhaps the money I've wasted on this book can be put, through this review, to some good use: saving yours.

Olly Buxton
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad I borrowed my boyfriend's copy!, 13 April 2009
By 
C. Frost "Charlie Frost" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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I would have never picked this book myself; I wouldn't have even stumbled upon it. My boyfriend bought it in the airport book shop as we went on holiday and was so entertained that he kept reading bits to me. I decided to read it myself, even though I can't say I have any understanding of economics whatsoever. I found I learned quite a bit and was very entertained by the insights into society and the chances people are given or make for themselves.

I particularly enjoyed the parts about babies names having an impact on their employment chances and the organisation of drug gangs being simiar to McDonalds! I think it gives a very modern and enjoyable view of what I would (rightly or 'wrongly') consider a very stuffy subject. I found myself surprised I had never thought of the topics covered before and questionning the organisation of certain parts of society. It's great for anyone who likes dark humour and irony and feels very fresh and hip.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but overhyped, 31 July 2005
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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First, this book is well worth a read. The authors present some useful insights on a wide variety of social issues, but they don't try to push them too far - the book is demonstrating what can be done with a methodology, not trying to build a systematic theory-of-everything (or indeed, of anything). Given that, I think that it could have included a little more background on the analytical methods, but perhaps that would have put off parts of the target audience.
Secondly, I think it is possible for a book to suffer from too much praise and I think that this is a case in point. Yes, it's a good, thought provoking read which I would recommend to anyone. World changing (as some paper reviews I have seen would suggest) it is not, and if you buy it expecting that, you will be disappointed. Which would be a shame.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 30 July 2006
By 
Ms. S. Takyar "sonia Takyar" (UK, midlands) - See all my reviews
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Being a student of economics at the time of reading this book, i found it to be extremely useful and thought provoking. It taught me to look at situations with a different perspective. The issues raised provided good talking points with my non economist friends and levitts study of cheating teachers in particular is one study used as a prime example of dysfunctional behaviour as a result of incentives.

Ecoonomist or not- this is one worth a read!!!
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