Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Some books, despite their engaging covers and intriguing contents, are simply doomed to languish on my bookshelf until some sudden urgent whim or fancy overtakes me. Recommended by all, but still left without a single page perused, they are fated to gather dust... until, of course, their destined reader (aka, moi) gathers forth resolve to read at least one nonfiction book a month this year. That's when they're finally taken off the shelf, have the dust wiped off their dust jackets, and are broken into with gusto. Or at least that's what happened towards the tail end of Winter Break, with this sweet piece of nonfiction.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is a thoroughly engaging account of new uses for Economics practices in real-life situations, instructed with gusto and well-fitting anecdotes that illustrate the rational behind seemingly unrelated factoids, like abortion and crime rate, as well as how teachers cheat their students, the pyramid scheme of a drug empire, and how a person's name is connected to their potential for success in life.Written by one of the world's most creative economists with a flair for explanations, and a skilled journalist with a knack for good storytelling, Freakonomics is a nonfiction wonder that will change the way you look at the way the ways of the world all relate to each other. 

Yet another much-hyped book that surprisingly lives up to said expected success, Freakonomics provides exactly what I look for in nonfiction: it's easily accessible for un-indoctrinated readers, and includes ties to pop culture, biographical anecdotes, trivia to offload on my friends in moments of  social necessity, etc. And it is a well-constructed account of a topic that I will not even begin to pretend I know anything about.

Which may have hindered a bit of my enthusiasm going into it: I have virtually no background in economics or sociology, which are two driving factors of the books origins of information. Even in reading the book, despite the fact that I was interested in and fully able to understand the "what" and the "whys" of their conclusions, I was still left a bit hanging on the "hows," like how this information was tabulated and how it corresponds to greater theories of Economics as a whole.

However, Levitt's status as some kind of Economics wunderkind and expressed leanings towards the unconventional render the conventional understanding of Economics that I was so desperate for rather superfluous. In this book, information itself, and the roundabout truths its exposes, reigns as capital currency, and dazzles readers with unexpected - yet, with Dubner as your guide, fully comprehensible - tidbits of previously unexplored circumstances in the realm of cause and effect.

For one of the first books I read in 2014, this one sure started me on the right foot for nonfiction in the new year! 

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