About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Friday, October 29, 2010

#78: Superfreakonomics

Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, by Steve Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner (New York: William Morrow, 2009)

Summary: "The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling more than four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world. Now Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with Superfreakonomics, and fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

"Four years in the making, Superfreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but the unexpected ones: What's more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's ineffective? Can a sex change boost your salary?

"Superfreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:
  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • How much good do car seats do?
  • What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
  • Did TV cause a rise in crime?
  • What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
  • Are people hardwired for altruism or selfishness?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
  • Who adds more value: a pimp or a realtor?
"Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global arming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is -- good, bad, ugly, and in the final analysis, superfreaky.

"Freakonomics has been imitated many times over -- but only now, with Superfreakonomics, has it met its match."

Table of Contents:
  • An Explanatory Note: In which we admit to lying in our previous book
  • Introduction: Putting the Freak in Economics: In which the global financial meltdown is entirely ignored in favor of more engaging topics
  • Chapter 1: How Is a Street Prostitute Like a Department-Store Santa? In which we explore the various costs of being a woman
  • Chapter 2: Why Should Suicide Bombers Buy Life Insurance? In which we discuss compelling aspects of birth and death, though primarily death
  • Chapter 3: Unbelievable Stories About Apathy and Altruism: In which people are revealed to be less good than previously thought, but also less bad
  • Chapter 4: The Fix Is In -- and It's Cheap and Simple: In which big, seemingly intractable problems are solved in surprising ways
  • Chapter 5: What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have In Common? In which we take a cool, hard look at global warming
  • Epilogue: Monkeys Are People Too: In which it is revealed that -- aw, hell, you have to read it to believe it
My Take: Yes, I've gone from being bored with a mystery/ detective story to looking forward to being entertained by a book that's (at least tangentially) about economics. There is clearly something wrong with me.

Damn, but that was a good time! Don't take my word for it, as I'm an admitted econ geek wannabe -- but Filbert (a/k/a Mr. Hazelthyme) and Sprig (formerly Littlehazel) aren't, and the grand finale, what happens when capuchin monkeys are taught to use money chapter even had them laughing out loud!

picks up where the original Freakonomics left off, but you don't necessarily have to have read the earlier book (or even taken any econ classes) to enjoy this one.

(Much later) Life interfered, I got backlogged, and had to return the book before doing a thorough review. Sad to say, but hey -- at least you know I liked it.

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