Homer's Travels: Book: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's "Freakonomics"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's "Freakonomics"

Have you ever waited for something with so much anticipation that when you got it, it was a big let down? Well, that's what happened when I read Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything".

I read paperbacks. I rarely read hardcovers. No real reason really. They're cheaper and easier to pack and carry, I guess. Usually the wait between hard and paper is six months to a year. "Freakonomics" took three years. Everything I read about the book sounded fascinating and when I finally bought it and read it ... Meh.

The book applies economic principles to rather strange questions. Why do most drug dealers live with their mothers? Is there a connection between the crime rate and legalized abortions? The analyses are interesting and forthright, even the ones that are potentially controversial (for example: the legalization of abortions in the 70s resulted in the reduction of violent crimes in the 90s). My problem is that's it. There are not enough examples and analysis. The book is about 50% too short. It's like they put a drop of the best tasting flavor in you mouth and then took it away leaving you wanting for more. To make it worse, I had heard so much about the book in the three years since it was originally published that I pretty much knew all the examples. There was very little surprise for me. Using a phrase of a reviewer of another book, it was like eating leftovers that you didn't want.

What killed the book for me, in this instance, was the
spoiler. I subscribe RSS feeds that often give spoilers for television shows. I used to soak up Star Trek spoilers (all the incarnations) and often knew most of the story before I'd watched the television show or movie. It didn't take long before I realized that reading spoilers diminished my enjoyment. When I started watching Battlestar Galactica, I purposefully ignored any spoilers and just let the story unfold on the screen, surprises and all. It made it a much better experience. "Freakonomics" was ruined by the spoilers.

They now have a sequel out, "
SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance". I have read very few reviews of it. I hope it will come out in paperback sooner than "Freakonomics". The shorter the time the less chance that I will ruin it for myself. Yes, despite being disappointed in this the book, I will probably read the sequel because, despite the lack of 'more', what was there was interesting and worth a mild recommendation.


  1. I listed to the book on CD a few years ago. I agree that a lot of the examples were already said in interviews and items put out by the publisher, but I guess that's the way things are these days. After all, how many movies have you seen where you knew the entire plot just from seeing the trailer?

  2. GH: Too many. Lately I've avoided the spoiler sites.