Book Review: Freakonomics

I loved every moment of reading this book. It is outlandish and out of the ordinary. However, there was one facet, or lack thereof that stood out. It was the lack of a cohesive theme. All the anecdotes and stories broadly and somewhat loosely fall into the category of 'Hidden details that tell the real truth.'

The latest edition of this book also has additional material from their New York times column and from their blog to enhance the reader's experience. (Don't skip this part!)

Here are some of the anecdotes that are presented in the book. Reading the book about the details of these anecdotes can either be hilarious ( as in my case) or outright offensive.

1. The real estate agent is not really trying to get the best deal for you. It may not be worth her time and effort to sell your house for the best price.

2. Street drug dealing in cities Chicago has an organizational structure and hierarchy that can put large organizations to shame.

3. Anyone can be dishonest, provided the stakes are high enough. Does this sound improbable? The author presents findings in schools and rigged sumo wrestling matches, all based on statistical data to make this point. He almost made me a believer.

4. Information, particularly the rise of the internet is the enemy of any organization that has secrets, be they the KKK or real estate firms.

5. Could it be that the biggest deterrent on your resume is neither your experience or your education. It is what you put right at the top: your name.

6. Crime all over the US has diminished in the last decade. It was not Guiliani, or more cops-patrolling the street. It was Roe vs. Wade. (Pro-life fanatics are duly warned about this material.)

7. Can we find a hint of racism or age discrimination on a TV quiz show?

8. Voting is your civic duty, but does you vote really matter?

9. Drug related crimes have gone down over the last decade, but drug use is still rampant?

10. This book offers unique solutions to catch cheating teachers, people who do not clean up after their dogs and so on.

The lack of a unifying theme has been acknowledged and criticized by many readers. I felt that it did not matter. It was still as educational as any of the works of Gladwell or the other boo I have reviewed here. Why must books have a unifying theme? Why must stories have an end?

Levitt and Dubner have a new fan. I am now a regular visitor to the Freakonomics blog and also follow the authors on twitter.

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