SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Book Review)

I’ve been reading the book SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Like its predecessor, Freakonomics by the same authors, SuperFreakonomics is unputdownable once you start reading it.

What’s great about this book is that it argues against many things we believe to be true. Using statistics and challenging established wisdom, Levitt and Dubner make compelling arguments that give us fresh perspectives on knowledge we take for granted.

The authors cover a range of seemingly unrelated but interesting topics ranging from the economics of prostitution to the identifying potential terrorists using statistical data. The work of their colleague Sudhir Venkatesh, author of the gripping book Gang Leader for a Day is also featured in this book. They discuss the effectiveness of complex solutions like child safety seats (“car seats”) compared to simple solutions like seat belts. In their discussion of simple solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges like preventing and controlling hurricanes, they remind us that simple solutions are sometimes the most powerful and reliable.

There are numerous things in this book that many people will not agree with. This book does not claim to be an encyclopedia of correct, proven information. If you are looking for established science and facts, compared to the hypothesis and opinions presented in this book, even WikiPedia would be a more authoritative source of facts.  However, what I liked about this book is that reading it inspires and challenges the reader to think in new ways. In fact, the same methods this book uses to challenge other wisdom could be used to dispute the viewpoints of the people whose opinions are expressed in this book.

Whether you agree with all, some or none of their findings, reading their book will benefit you: It presents and encourages ways of finding different and better ways of conducting experiments and studies. It sparks new ways of thinking, even if you use the methods to challenge some of their own findings.

The findings and statistical data are presented in their approachable storytelling that everyone can enjoy. It is an entertaining, enlightening and even educational read. I recommend reading this book.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I thank HarperCollins for sending me a pre-release copy of the upcoming book for review. Below is a link to the book on Amazon. It will be released on October 20, 2009.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

  • http://dnorton.org Daniel

    Great review, Rajiv. I'm just now starting the book, and I was already under the assumption that I would feel the same way about the book. They are really good at making you think about unusual things with the understanding of how the basic principles of economics influence them.