REVIEW: When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

In brief: A collection of blog posts from the Freakonomics crew, discussing everything from the price of kiwifruit to the incentives to stop someone complaining about a rancid chicken.

The good: Shorter posts make it easy to pick up and read during busy times.

The not-so-good: Sometimes you want to know things in more detail.

Why I chose it: The only Freakonomics book I haven’t read.

Year: 2015

Pages: 387

Publisher: Penguin

Rating: 10 out of 10

I should probably credit the Freakonomics team with partially leading me to studying economics. Of course, I could also blame them for the opportunity cost of having less money (paying for university fees) and less leisure time (because I was studying). But weirdly enough, I did gain utility throughout it all, including reading this collection of their blog posts. If you’ve read these online, you could be familiar with a few but I’m really bad at catching up with blog posts so the time and money investment was worth it.

The main difference with When to Rob a Bank (spoiler: it’s not when you would think) is that the topics and posts are shorter. This can be great if you’ve got five minutes to read, but occasionally disappointing if you want to know lots more. Fortunately, there is a collection of references at the back to look into your favourite topics. The shorter posts are also useful if you just want to know the simple answer (like why kiwifruit are really cheap in the US). The book is organised into chapters with a loose link between them all, but I thought the best chapter was the collection of posts that didn’t fit under any other titles. I read this midweek and I found the format worked in well with ad breaks, reading during boring news segments etc. Also, if you aren’t particularly interested in a subject, you can skip or skim it, without feeling that you’ve missed out. Some of the topics aren’t as well thought out as others, but as they are short, I don’t think they need to be. Sometimes they are more of a story than a lesson in economics and that’s OK too. Maybe one of them will spark off an idea for a great study on that topic.

If you want your Freakonomics to be in-depth, I’d recommend the earlier books. For shorter musings, this is your book. Either way, all are easy to read with interesting observations on the mundane to the odd.

One thought on “REVIEW: When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

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  1. What an unusual title for a book. It sounds as though it would be a good read for anyone who has an interest in economics.

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