Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Think Like A Freak – Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

In the lead-up to their third book together, ‘Think Like A Freak’, authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dunber had been claiming that this book was more prescriptive than its predecessors, ‘Freakonomics’ and its souped-up sequel ‘Superfreakonomics’. That had me a little worried, as to me the weakest chapter of ‘Superfreakonomics’ was when Levitt and Dubner seemed to put aside their digging through the data and got almost polemical with their chapter on the relative ineffectiveness of the current approaches to combat global warming. Fortunately, ‘Think Like A Freak’ is not all that prescriptive, or at least the world-view it espouses was already implicit in their first books anyway. Or maybe I am just too much of the ‘Freakonomics’ type of view – honestly, I cannot think of a non-fiction book that has had more of an effect on my life and career  - that it did not seem all that revelatory to me. More likely, if you enjoyed the first two books you were probably a little on your way to thinking like a ‘freak’ anyway.

I must say that I would already be inclined to agree with a book that claimed the three hardest words in the language are ‘I don’t know’, and pushes ‘the upside of quitting’. I completely agree with the view that many people claim they know more than they do (probably including me, at least on occasion… ha!), and that it is hard for people to admit failure on a project. The chapter on why Van Halen singer David Lee Roth was like King Solomon was also a neat bit of story-telling, the chapter title harking back to the first book’s comparison of what schoolteachers and sumowrestlers have in common – a mystery with a surprising but logical conclusion. Other chapters, such as how to persuade people, were less compelling, although they also have their neat twists.

Overall, this was the least (and possibly last) of the three ‘Freakonomics’ books so far, but for me that is like saying it is the least of the three Christopher Nolan ‘Batman’ films – it is pretty hard to live up to the first two books’ subjects of corrupt sumo wrestlers, ambitious drug dealers, and the economics of being a prostitute. It's Levitt – it’s great – and thank the econ-gods we have the best blog going around to tide us over until the next instalment.

No comments: