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5.0 out of 5 stars The cover says it all - a great book!, 30 Oct 2007
This review is from: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Paperback)
First must state that this reviewer is not an economist, and usually find such books can often be boring. Must admit that this book kept me up far too late one recent weekend reading it through to the end. It was hard to put down.

Another reader/reviewer emailed me, noting that Malcolm Gladwell had said that Steven Levitt "has the most interesting mind in America," and since I had found Gladwell's "Blink!" hard to put down, I might find "Freakonomics" interesting. This was an understatement.

Then another friend loaned me a copy of the book, so I felt obligated to read it. Now I'll have to get my own copy, for it's worth a second read.

As noted above, the cover says it all. "Freakonomics" is not only humorous in places, it's fascinating, an out of the ordinary way of looking at economics for those who normally don't venture into what is often perceived as a boring subject. Like Gladwell's writing, this reviewer found this book to be a springboard to other ideas.

The authors define economics as "the study of incentives" early in the first chapter, which is not exactly as I remember the conventional definition from college courses. But maybe analyzing how to motivate people to do or not do a particular things is a better way or looking at the reality of economics.

"Freakonomics" was co-written by the noted journalist Stephen Dubner ("Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper"), and seems to have drawn as much criticism as it has received praise from reviewers and other commentators. The authors repeatedly state that there's no consistent theme. Others have noted that it appears to be an assembly of magazine articles and columns, edited and put together in an appealing but not particularly interrelated manner.

But this reader found that it does have a theme, and that theme is that established conventional wisdom is not always right. Things that we perceive to be related just might not be. Maybe there's no connection at all, and maybe some are simply coincidence.

Liberals and conservatives in our society will find some of Levitt's thoughts to be controversial. This reader found much of the book to fly in the face of "conventional wisdom," and found that this is what made it so fascinating. For example, don't miss Levitt's discussion regarding abortion, for whether or not you agree with his viewpoint, it is thought provoking.

There are many other thought-provoking concepts that this reader found fascinating, such as the authors' thoughts on how education and actual knowledge in our public school systems has been replaced by standardized testing preparation. This then leads to the encouragement of cheating just to get the statistics where those in charge of the systems need them to be. To comment further on this would be akin to plot spoiling. But don't miss Levitt's comments on the bizarre trends of naming babies, which this reviewer found to be hilarious in their absurdity.

Some have commented that this book is more of a basic text on sociology more than economics, but this reader found that it's all connected, and makes one want to look further. Levitt is a writer to watch, and he does let the numbers talk for him in an interesting if often offbeat fashion.

Criticisms? Initially had been happy to find this book to be comfortable 256 pages, but after finishing it, wished there had been more. It's definitely not boring, and that can't be said about many works related to economics. Might even be a good gift for someone, as almost anyone can read it and frequently have a good laugh.

I thoroughly enjoyed "Freakonomics" and heartily recommend it: 5 stars without a doubt.
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