Book Review: Freakonomics

Levitt, Steven D. and Dubner, Stephen J. 2006. Freakonomics (Revised and Expanded Edition). Harper Collins. New York.

All you really need to know is that the spine of this book is fluorescent orange in color. In general, I avoid any book that resorts to fluorescent colors to encourage me to notice or purchase the book. Usually, fluorescent books are more about hype than content, and this one is no different. In my defense, I bought it in an airport while my selection of books was severly limited.

My biggest criticisms of the book, however, the authors freely acknowledge. First, there is no unifying theme to the book. It’s an odd collection of chapters that have very little in common with each other. Second, it’s not easily recognizable as economics. It’s more simple statistics than economics. I felt a little bit cheated when I sat down to read a book about economics and got simple statistics instead.

It’s an interesting book, however, despite lacking a unifying theme. Since I read the expanded version, several of the Freakonomics blog posts and columns were included at the end. I enjoyed the blogs and columns more than I enjoyed the book itself because the entries were intended as independent topics. The book would have worked better as a blog, where posts don’t necessarily need to be unified by a single theme and didn’t need to be stretched out to book-chapter-length. Kudos to the authors for approaching unique topics in an interesting fashion, but the contents would have made a much better blog than book. They speculate about a sequel book, but I hope they choose to just present the new material in blog form, or at least not try to force it into chapter-length servings.

I was most disappointed with the lack of numbers and figures. Although it is a book about economics (statistics), there is a surprising lack of numbers, charts and figures helping to explain the authors assertions.

So all you really need to know about it is that the spine is fluorescent orange.

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