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

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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.

My rating of this book: 3/5 stars.

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

Consumers, Confidence & the Economy: What You Can Do to Help

We individual consumers should, as a community, take steps to support and strengthen the U.S. and global economy. People’s confidence and our actions resulting from it are an important factor in rescuing and rebuilding the economy.

Yes, we need to be cautious about spending and should save money during this economic time, but we need to balance that with continuing to buying products and services to fuel the economy and keep the markets running. In today’s world, our jobs in various sectors are deeply interrelated in ways we don’t realize.

For example, if we stop eating at restaurants or shopping at stores, the restaurant and shops’ employees would lose jobs. The restaurants and shops would in turn stop spending money on advertising, resulting in job losses in the advertising sector. The suppliers to the restaurants and shops would also suffer. Sooner than we realize, it would come back and hit us. It is within our power as a community to save the situation.

We need to keep doing our part in the economy, supporting the businesses around us, so that they are able to keep supporting us.

Optimism and confidence are essential to human success. I urge you to consider doing some of the following each day:

  • When you talk with your friends about the economic situation, talk about how you as an individual and community can do to help instead of talking about doom and gloom.
  • Replace pessimism and fear with practical optimism and confidence. Value what you do have: Remember there are people in parts of this world to whom survival literally means keeping their families and themselves alive.
  • Buy something. Avail of a service. This is a good time to get good deals on products and services.
  • If you are in a position of influence in your organization, encourage your company to not lay off employees. Suggest alternatives to putting people out of work. Across the board pay reductions are far better for the economy than people losing jobs.
  • Go online to learn about the current situation and the proposals out there to fix it. Urge your elected officials to take action on the proposals you believe would help.
  • Share this or a similar message of your own with other people.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Book Review)

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I just completed Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and found it an interesting book. (I listened to the unabridged audio book edition.)

This is a book written for the mass market written in a sensationalist style. If you are looking to learn about economics or are looking for facts proven by rigorous scientific study, this is not the book. However, what I liked about this book is its rogue approach of making almost heretic claims against established wisdom.

Whether you find the viewpoints the authors and collaborators of this book present to be believable or not, we do learn something important from reading this book: Conventional, established wisdom isn’t always gospel and needs to be challenged at appropriate times.

Parts of the book, especially the Chicago gang stories from the sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh are gripping like a novel. You will enjoy reading it. I recommend reading it.

My rating of this book: 3/5 stars.