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Things you never knew you wanted to know but do

February 16, 2010

Been out since Oct 09 but I’ve to get my hands on it yet, although I fully intend to soon. Preview here.

The first book, Freakonomics, was a real eye-opener for me and in itself, a ground breaking book.

If you haven’t read it or don’t know anything about it, then here’s why I highly recommend you give it a go:

Reason 1

For me personally, Freakonomics was less about economics and more about problem solving (albeit, using economic theory).

Freakonomics taught me to question everything, especially conventional wisdom (and how it got to be in the first place). It taught me important lessons about framing a problem correctly

Context and perspective. Background and circumstances.

Then it’s about establishing what kind of information you need to find the answers – and how to get it. And therein lies one of the most important lessons for me from the book; the real power of information and knowledge lies in using it correctly.

Reason 2

From the authors’ perspective, the first book had no unifying theme. At least not when they first wrote and published it. It was simply a collection of many “quest for answers” type stories with both Levitt and Dubner (the authors) seeking answers to seemingly ridiculous questions… like “What do teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?” and “Why do drug dealers still live with their mums?”.

However, in the prefatory note for SuperFreakonomics (see preview above), both authors admitted that they’d been wrong. A unifying theme did exist even if they hadn’t realise it then.

The theme across all their stories, all their data, all their real-life examples and all their answers is simply that “people respond to incentives”.

So this obviously is the economic angle for anyone of you who’re interested in the subject. And while you might find their answers short of solving world poverty or the apparent Euro-zone crisis, they are still compelling accounts of what drives people to make the decisions they make and do the things they do every day.

So, hopefully I’ve done my part in encouraging you to pick up a copy of Freakonomics and start exploring Levitt’s and Dubner’s world.

If not, then I’ll leave you with the table of contents from SuperFreakonomics so see if inspires any interest. Come on, if you’re even close to the inquisitive kind, you can’t look at these chapters and not go “WTF??!!!”, followed with a slight tinge of weird and twisted curiousity to find out what it’s all about.

Chapter 1: How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?

Chapter 2: Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?

Chapter 3: Unbelievable stories about apathy and altruism

Chapter 4: The fix is in—and it’s cheap and simple

Chapter 5: What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common?

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