Latest Review

Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

The Impulse Factor
Nick Tasler

Other Book Reviews

The End of Certainty
Moonwalking with Einstein
Sync
Wind, Sand and Stars
At Home in the Universe
What's Mine is Yours
Organize with Chaos
We Are What We Think
The Impulse Factor
The Perfect Swarm
A Guide for the Perplexed
Understanding Comics
Dead Poets Society
Bad Science
Motionless Journey
The Five Day Course in Thinking
Small is Beutiful
The Quantum and the Lotus
Into the Wild
Man on Wire
Never Have a Bad Day Ever Again
Turning to One Another
Multiplicity
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
The Little Prince
Bradbury Stories
For One More Day
Finding Our Way
Leadership and the New Science
Secrets of the People Whisperer
Mind Set
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Boost Your Creative Intelligence
A Simpler Way
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Run Lola Run
Snow Cake
Design and Layout
Creativity Today
Graphic Design School
The Explorer's Eye
The Pig that Wants to be Eaten
Ideas
The Empty Raincoat
Business the Richard Branson Way
Re-imagine
Exercises in Style
A Short History of Nearly Everything
How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci
Oulipo Compendium
POD People
Flash Fiction
Review of How to Change Your Life in 7 Steps
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Screw it, Let's do it
Freakonomics
Blink
How to Get Ideas
The Art of Travel
Introducing Chaos
Deep Simplicity
Introducing Quantum Theory
Introducing Fractal Geometry
Review of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
Nature's Chaos
Zen in the Art of Writing
The Art of Possibility
Experimental Tarvel
The Art of Looking Sideways
The Power of Now
The Alchemist
The monk who sold his Ferrari
Review of Man's Search for Meaning
Review of Einstein's Dreams
Review of The Ultimate Book of Business Thinking
Review of What Do You Care What Other People Think?
Review of The Tipping Point
Review of Who Moved My Cheese?
Review of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Review of Zeno and the Tortoise
Review of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Review of Emergence
Review of Pooh and the Philosophers
Review of Business The Ultimate Resource
Review of Shackleton's Way
Review of Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work
Review of Reckoning with Risk
Review of Field of Dreams
Review of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
Review of 101 Philosophy Problems
Review of The Spirited Business
Review of Genius
Books available in association with Amazon.co.uk
Freakonomics

Freakonomics
by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner.

A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything.

View Freakonomics on AmazonSteven D Levitt is an interesting man. He is a trained and expert economist, who doesn’t really like economics. Someone highly skilled in the use of a suite of tools, but who chooses not to use them in the context or the way in which they are routinely used. He thus deserves the title of maverick as he takes his toolkit of measurement and data analysis and points it, not towards the same questions as his erstwhile colleagues, to be used in the same way to glean the same answers. Instead he focuses his attention wherever his interest takes him.

Mavericks are interesting people, they do the unexpected, and see the unseen, and through this book he illustrates what can be discovered if you truly explore questions rather than being led by the existing answers.

As a maverick he needed the guiding hand of a writer, Stephen J Dubner, to settle the ideas long enough to create a book. Together they have created a stimulating volume which will have you seeing new things in the topics they have covered, which range from how elections are won, how teachers and sumo wrestlers cheat, how your estate agent works or doesn’t work for you, to how profitable it is to sell illegal drugs.

Steven delights in taking conventional wisdom, and examining it through his measurement trained thinking. He discovers that much conventional wisdom, is strong on conventional, but weak on wisdom. As you read the pages you’ll discover that money doesn’t win elections, that its far more dangerous to have a swimming pool in the garden than a gun in the house and that the biggest contributor to the reduction in serious crime in the United States were changes to the abortion law.

For example in one chapter the book explores the often considered question of nature v nurture. As parents this is a question that sometimes haunts us. How much of what our children become comes from genetics and how much from the way we raise them? Through analysis of a mound of data, including that of children adopted and raised by non genetic parents they concluded an interesting result. Their conclusion is that what we do has little impact on our children, what we are being is what matters.

This has a very strong resonance with my thinking. To paraphrase; taking your child to the museum has no impact on their development, but being the kind of parent who thinks of taking their child to the museum is all important. The subtlety of this difference, I believe divides those that simply ‘do’ change, from those that become change.

More fundamental than describing new insights, their aim is not to change what you think, but how you think. This is nicely captured in their description in the closing paragraphs of the book.

‘You might become more sceptical of common wisdom; you may begin looking for hints as to how things aren’t quite what they seem.; perhaps you will seek out some trove of data and sift through it, balancing your intelligence and your intuition to arrive at a glimmering new idea. Some of these ideas might make you uncomfortable, even unpopular…. You will find yourself asking a lot of questions. Many of them will lead to nothing. But some will produce answers that are interesting, even surprising.’

This is an entertaining read which will help you question much conventional wisdom, and perhaps spur you on to take this questioning with you wherever you go. So inspired, who knows what power for change this may give you.

Steve Unwin
November 22 2006.

View or buy from View  Freakonomics  on Amazon