Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #24)

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of EverythingAuthors: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Pages: 256 but I listened to the Unabridged Audio Book Version--6 CDs, 7 hours (read by Stephen J. Dubner)
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2006
Genre: Non-fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: PG-13 (some language including a few f-bombs)

Okay, so I'm probably the last person on the planet to read this book and that makes it a little difficult to review. A tiny re-cap (for anyone else who may be as slow as me jumping on the bandwagon): two economists who think way outside the box discuss various, seemingly random, questions about society in an effort to understand what drives success and incentives, two subjects directly related to the field of economics.   They talk about the differences (and similarities) between school teachers and sumo wrestlers, drug dealers and real estate agents.  And ponder which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool and what effect our names and parenting styles have on our future endeavors. 

I can see what all the fuss was about.  I was fascinated. The authors have a truly unique way of looking at things and finding correlations between two apparently unrelated subjects thereby piquing the interest of the reader (or in my case, listener) and prodding him/her to look at the world around him in a different way. 

They talk about conventional wisdom, things that we have been told time and again are true and make logical sense so much that they begin to seem true even though they are not, and give multiple evidences against many instances of it. For example: I am still an advocate of interactive parenting and reading to your child. Conventional wisdom says that these things are great indicators of a child's future educational success and yet their research showed that it was not parenting or bedtime stories but rather the socioeconomic background of the parents/child that was the greater factor.  I am also still strongly pro-life even though they proved that legal abortions have done more to curb the rate of violent crimes more successfully than increased law enforcement, gun control, harsher sentencings and so forth.

I was intrigued about the data on the various fads in children's names among different socioeconomic and ethnic groups (and you can be sure there will be no 'lemonjellos' or 'orangellos' among my off-spring!) Cheating, education, and the inner-workings of the Ku Klux Klan were also discussed.

If you haven't read this yet I would strongly recommend you do. It's quick and light for a non-fiction book and will have you looking at what drives and motivates you personally as well as those you interact with and wondering if there is some connection between it and, say, the color of paint on your walls or what you've chosen to order for lunch.  As their apple/orange cover shows, things are not always as they seem!

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