Nerditya by Aditya

Book Review: Freakonomics

This book was on my 'to-read' list for a long time. Finally I got bored with reading fantasy/fiction and settled on reading Freakonomics. It's a difficult book to review. It starts off tackling economics through a series of everyday events. Then it goes on asking and answering some pretty crazy questions.

  • Author: Steven Levitt / Stephen Dubner
  • Published: 2005
  • Genre: Business/Economics
  • Age Group: Adults

The authors discuss six questions in Freakonomics.

  1. What do School Teacher's and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?
  2. How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real Estate Agents?
  3. Why do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?
  4. Where Have All the Criminals Gone?
  5. What Makes a Perfect Parent?
  6. Perfect Parenting Part II: Or, Would a Roshanda by any other name smell as sweet?

Pretty strange and seemingly not related to economics at all. The answers to these questions, backed by statistics and data collected from various experiments, give an interesting insight on a number of topics. Conclusions are inferred based on the available data and the method of arriving at the said results is quite ingenious.

The way certain topics are handled is something I haven't seen before. Asking the questions they did, a few of them, was quite surprising. The cynical and controversial opinions expressed in the book was a welcome change in a society that cries foul on even the most inconsequential of such statements (abortions, racial profiling, to name a few). Every one of us partakes in it, few discuss it. I quite admire the book for that.

One thing that I felt very strongly about this book is that the intended audience is someone with an average IQ or little to no knowledge about a variety of topics. Many of the real life incidents in this book are based on schools, education system, parenting, and socio-economic backgrounds of people. If you're an adult who has kept his/her eyes open to what goes on in the world and around you then almost all the examples are pretty mundane and obvious. The last two chapters were particularly disappointing.

The edition I have also includes essays and newspaper columns about the book. This addendum was better than the last two chapters, even though it repeats quite a lot of the material from the book. So much so that my favorite line from the book comes from this section.

Teachers and criminals and real-estate agents may lie, and politicians, and even C.I.A analysts; but numbers don't.

If I had to pick the best topic, I would pick the second chapter. Perhaps being an Indian, I knew so little about the Klan that I found the narrative quite interesting. Overall impact of the book, however, was less than flattering.

Rating: 3/5