Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Summer Book Review:

No, it's not about that little weirdo with the round glasses-but it is written by 2 adults, 1 of whom wears glasses. While the rest of America spent the weekend fulfilling their Harry Potter addiction I spent the weekend reading Freakonomics.

I was hesitant to buy it since I figured a book by an economist was not going to be something that I could tolerate no matter how interesting Jon Stewart said it was. Granted, how many books by economists make it on the NY Times best seller list, but come on…Harry Potter sold a record number of books this weekend so it's not like that's an "elite" club or anything.

If you haven’t figured it out yet I’m not really a Harry Potter fan. While this might not be fair since I haven’t actually read any of the books I refuse to think children’s books can actually be that interesting-plus I saw a couple of the movies and I wasn’t that impressed.

Please spare me the “Harry Potter books are amazing” backlash-please spend your time reading a book where you might actually learn something other then how:

  1. To play that game on the broom sticks
  2. How to talk to a snake

(Yes I am suggesting you actually learn something you can use in the real world)…But really I don’t care if you spend your time reading another chapter in the Harry Potter book, just don’t lecture me about how great it is…I reserve my forum for my causes and prefer to lecture on how great Freakonomics is.

So in case some of you are concerned you won’t enjoy a book written by an economist (Steven D. Levitt) and a journalist (Stephen J. Dubner) I’ve enclosed a link to the introduction-so you can find out it is a well written, yet easy read.

The two have such a great sense of humor in addressing their unconventional topics. They even go so far as to warn not to trust economists and journalists as they tend to serve their own interests. The chapters are entitled:

  1. What do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common? (How educational programs which force schools to test children as a means of testing teachers lead to teacher forgery of those tests and how Sumo wrestlers might not be as legitimate as everyone seems to think they are-GASP, Japanese wrestling and American wresting are fake?)
  2. How is the Ku Klux Klan Like a group of Real Estate Agents? (How Real Estate agents might not have your best interests at heart and how Stetson Kennedy did more to bring down the KKK then anyone else in American history by making their passwords a joke).
  3. Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms? (The interworkings of a Chicago crack gang and the true money distribution).
  4. Where Have All the Criminals gone? (This is where they analyze how Roe v. Wade led to the greatest drop in crime in America History-and my personal favorite chapter, however the one on drug dealers is a close second).
  5. What Makes a Perfect Parent? (How parents poorly evaluate risks-like which is more dangerous a gun or a swimming pool?)
  6. Perfect Parenting, Part II or: Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet (Does the name parents give their child really effect their long terms career possibilities).

While not the typical topics you expect an economist to tackle it’s really all about analyzing data so why couldn’t an economist delve into these topics. The shocking part is that the 2 have hard evidence to back up their claims by using control groups within populations. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I found it fascinating.

The discussion on how legalized abortion led to the greatest crime drop in American history at a time when all the experts were predicting that crime would explode and there would be a “bloodbath” in the streets was particularly interesting. The pair are unconcerned how either side of the political spectrum feels about their book (their theory on abortion is not exactly favored by either side), this unabashed honesty truly makes the book. The 2 tackle unpopular and controversial topics without caution-a rarity in our politically correct world. I don’t have the energy to summarize my favorite chapter right now-but look for a post soon in which I attempt to present their arguments and probably will do a poor job.

Note: This is actually the 2nd book I've read this summer. The first was Drinking by Caroline Knapp-while excellent I didn't feel the need to push it to everyone I know. (Yes I realize it's lame I've had 2 months and I've only read 2 books but I'm working on it)

So now I'm out of Summer reading and looking for suggestions for other choices, feedback welcome and appreciated.


midwest_hick said...

lol...While I'm not sure I'd enjoy a book on economics.....I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy a Harry Potter book.

Elle Woods said...

It's not on economics, thats the beautiful part. There is not one mention of supply and demand or anything of that sort in this entire book.