Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
I borrowed this book from my boyfriend, who definitely prefers non-fiction to fiction, on his recommendation. He says this book alone changed his view from pro-life to pro-choice. He had already told me a lot about the book so I didn’t really get anything new out of it by reading it myself. The main idea – taking a closer look at why people behave the way they do – is presented via studies on incentives, the power of information, abortion vs crime rates, and parenting. These studies are fascinating but the writing suffers a bit from constant repetition and re-explanation of concepts. My number one complaint about non-fiction is the lack of brevity.
Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much heralded scholar who studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life – from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing – and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. He usually begins with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-or-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.