One of its authors recently pretended that he and his co-author expected to sell only about eighty copies of Freakonomics; it sold more than four million. That and the comparable sales of Superfreakonomics make this book choice a sort of no-brainer, but it also brings up a related issue: The very popularity of these two bestsellers make their works easy targets for critiques. After all, the key to their works (definitely including this new one) is being counterintuitive and let's face it, freeing ourselves from expectations isn't always easy. Fortunately, the "think like a freak" thinkers are much less dogmatic than their critics. Several times, they have readdressed issues with remarkable candor in new editions and on websites. To me, that's one reason (and there are many) to read them and keep reading them: Levitt and Dubner approach problems with a sense of curiosity and wonder, not a set-in-stone certainty. That's what I search for in books. R.J. Wilson, Bookseller, #1002, New York NY
The bestselling bards of gonzo economics return with this new compendium of nifty, if occasionally shallow contrarian mind-warps. This time University of Chicago economist Levitt and journalist Dubner clothe their Freakonmics schtick in flimsy self-help garb by instructing readers on how to "think like a Freak": ignore conventional wisdom; focus on data; test theories with experiments; don't confuse correlation with causality (married people may be happier, they note, because no one wants to marry a grump); most of all, attend to the devious workings of callow self-interest that rule all things (a principle that comically backfires when one of them uses candy bribes to toilet-train his daughter). Levitt and Dubner apply these nostrums to problems having little to do with economics, including competitive hot dog-eating, why Nigerian con artists advertise themselves as Nigerian con artists, and the game-theoretical ploys of King Solomon and David Lee Roth. Their arguments are lucid, catchy, and sometimes dubious; their brief for the efficacy of medieval trial-by-ordeal is no more convincing than their hackneyed attack on Britain's national health system. The result is brief, blithe, but ill-digested provocations that stimulate controversy, but are too sketchy to settle it. (May)
“Good ideas... expressed with panache.”
“An interesting and thought-provoking read.”
“Over nine entertaining chapters [Levitt and Dubner] demonstrate how not to fall into hackneyed approaches to solving problems and concretely illustrate how to reframe questions.”
“Compelling and fun.”
“This book will change your life.”
“Their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally - to think, that is, like a Freak.”
Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics sold five million copies. So the authors will likely do well with this book on thinking like a freak—that is, looking at the world in a different way to understand it better. With a one-day laydown on May 13 and a 500,000-copy first printing.
Co-authors Levitt (Economics/Univ. of Chicago) and journalist Dubner (Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, 2009, etc.) continue on their mission to get people to think in new ways in this lively book about decision and persuasion.Building on their first two books, the authors offer advice for dealing with "minor lifehacks or major global reforms." Most people, they argue, "seek out evidence that confirms what they already think, rather than new information that would give them a more robust view of reality." They urge openness to evidence that may seem obvious, counterintuitive or even childish. Children, they conclude, are much more likely than adults to focus on small, solvable problems rather than "intractable, hopelessly complex" issues. "Small questions are by their nature less often asked and investigated….They are virgin territory for true learning," they assert, and much more likely to inspire change. Nine fast-paced, story-filled chapters offer nuggets of useful advice: Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." It's essential for learning. Reframe questions: "If you ask the wrong question, you are almost guaranteed to get the wrong answer." Stay alert to the real root cause of a problem; it may be far different from what people generally assume. Levitt and Dubner analyze the upsides and downsides of incentives and consider the insidious power of "herd thinking." Genial storytellers, the authors admit that much of their advice may seem like common sense (and, of course, they covered much of this territory already in their previous books), but they cite study after study—by psychologists, sociologists, educators and scientists—to show that sometimes common sense is severely underutilized.Upbeat and optimistic, Levitt and Dubner hope that by thinking "a bit differently, a bid harder, a bit more freely," readers will be able "to go out and right some wrong, to ease some burden."