Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

A quick rundown… the Freakonomics guys are back to tell you all sorts of interesting things you didn’t think you needed to know with pictures in this illustrated edition.

Strengths: Cool pictures, graphs and interesting facts for parties.

Weaknesses: The last main chapter on climate change is very dry.

Why I read it: Discounted pre-Christmas sale.

Pages: 304

Published: 2010

Publisher: Allen Lane

Rating: 8 out of 10

If you liked this, try: the original Freakonomics.

The claim to fame of these two is that they can make economics interesting to the lay person and boy, do they succeed. Following on the success of Freakonomics (which looked at why your average drug dealer lives at home with his mum amongst other things), the pair are back with Superfreakonomics. But wait there’s more! The edition I read was the illustrated version, which is filled with colour pictures, graphs, extended chapters and more. (How it compares to the original book I’m not certain, as I didn’t check between them in store – this hardcover version was on sale). Having the illustrations really helped to grasp the knowledge – not just economical knowledge, but general knowledge as well.

The book covers a wide range of topics – from medical (how you should rate doctors, hand hygiene, how to build the most efficient emergency department) to social (sizes of condoms in India and why people watched as a woman was murdered). Somehow, through many, many links, there is a link established on why suicide bombers should buy life insurance (it involves probability and algorithms – explained in an easy fashion). It is amusing, witty and thought-provoking. In general, each chapter contains a wide range of topics that lead to the eventual question being or demonstrating the main topic in different fashions. The last chapter on climate change was a bit dry for my tastes. It wasn’t so much the science, which was easy to understand, but the lack of changes in topic and zany linkages. It was, quite serious and not quite in the same tone as the rest of the book. It was also interesting to see the backtracking as the authors proved that child restraints weren’t safer in a crash, but told you to use them anyway (think of the lawsuits!) This book doesn’t pretend to be the voice of truth, nor should it be viewed as such.

Fun, pop culture. It won’t help you pass an economics course (believe me, I tried), but it’s interesting reading, if only for the general knowledge and random facts.


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