Think Like a Freak by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt

In brief: The authors behind Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics
write about how to think outside the square and question the world.

The good: Some really interesting stories of ‘freaks’ and how they made exciting discoveries.

The not-so-good: Sometimes it felt a bit ‘self-help’ like.

Why I chose it: Have enjoyed the previous ‘freak’ books.

Year: 2014

Pages: 304

Publisher: Penguin

My rating: 7 out of 10

Like many others, I’ve enjoyed the more exciting, more freaky version of economics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt. Both Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics were original, quirky and interesting. I realised recently that I hadn’t read any of the other books by this pair, so it was off to the library. Think Like a Freak also has a cool cover, but in my opinion it’s nowhere near as strong as the previous two books.

Why is that? Well, I think it’s a number of factors, the first being that this book has the aim of teaching you to think ‘like a freak’ (funny that). So it’s a bit more of an instructional tool, using famous examples of how people thought outside the square and solved a problem (e.g. Professor Barry Marshall, who drank the Helicobacter pylori mixture and ended up with an ulcer, proving that stomach ulcers are bug related and killing off Zantac® in the process). The second is that the book has enormous print and references, and an index. Now, a good non-fiction book definitely needs the last two, but I felt a bit ripped off that there was a big chunk of book that I wasn’t actually going to read in detail. The last factor is the book feels a bit forced, like there was pressure to generate another ‘freak’ book but not enough time to run experiments etc.

The book still contains interesting examples of thinking outside the box but I don’t think I took too much away that will help me in my day to day life. I don’t read self-help books and occasionally this book felt a bit prescriptive. I would have preferred more stories about people thinking outside the box and less, ‘how to think like this person did’. Maybe if you work in a creative field this book will be of more help to you in that way. The book still has the easy to read tone of the previous books, but it just felt padded and less evidence based to me. Definitely one to borrow from the library rather than buy.

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One thought on “Think Like a Freak by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt

  1. I enjoy reading about the books you read and the way you review them. Sadly I don’t think this book is for me. It’s probably for the best as my TBR pile is taking over the house.

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