Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 270 pages

The New York Times best-selling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling over four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world. Now, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with SuperFreakonomics, and fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

Four years in the making, SuperFreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but the unexpected ones: What's more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's so ineffective? Can a sex change boost your salary?

SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:

  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • How much good do car seats do?
  • What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
  • Did TV cause a rise in crime?
  • What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
  • Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
  • Which adds more value: a pimp or a Realtor?

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is – good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky.

Review: I loved the first book in this series, Freakonomics. The quirky, interesting questions and new ideas were clever and funny and call into question many things I thought I knew for sure in fascinating ways. I'm pleased to say that this book was good too--although not quite as good as the first book.

The best part of this book is the content. The information shared is astonishing and fun. It definitely doesn't feel like you're learning economics, but that's what the book is all about. One chapter is all about monkeys who were taught to use money and ended up acting the same way as humans did in gambling games. In another chapter, it was revealed that children over three years old are just as safe in an adult lap belt as they are in a car seat. I was blown away by the consistently interesting facts and the funny commentary.

I'll be the first to admit that I've never really liked nonfiction, but I can whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone. Even people like me who spend almost all of their time on fiction. And though you don't have to read Freakonomics before you read this book, you'll want to once you have. The topics examined in that book are even more interesting.

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