Sunday, August 08, 2010

Vine: Superfreakonomics

Another of my Amazon Vine reviews; this time Superfreakonomics:

I only did a year of economics at university, because I found it rather too mathematical. Levitt and Dubner, however, do a good job of applying the insights and assumption of microeconomics to explaining everyday (and some not so everyday) decision making. They show, for example, that the laws of supply and demand apply to prostitutes, with the prices rising around public holidays and more 'seasonal workers' temporarily entering the profession.

As you may gather, the focus isn't on behaviour typically regarded as economic – in many ways, this is more of a sociology text than an economics one. Nonetheless, if you're interested in learning more about people's behaviour it provides some interesting observations and anecdotes. I haven't read the earlier book, Freakonomics, but it's quite clear that this is more of the same. You can certainly read this without having read that one – indeed, you might find it rather too similar if you have already read the first.

The writing is more like newspaper journalism than an academic text, so fairly approachable for the lay person, while all the references are hidden away at the back, to suggest that they've done their research rather than making things up without being overly off-putting for the reader. It's accessible, but I must say I found the attempts to add in some personal background about some of the people in the book rather uninteresting and also that the chapters weren't as logically structured as they might have been: often the authors go on surprising tangents that have little to do with the main subject of a given discussion, which can detract somewhat from the overall flow and make it hard to remember where you read a particularly interesting fact.

Despite my minor quibbles, I certainly found this book eye-opening. It's not unputdownable – in fact, it took me quite a long time to get round to finishing it – but I do feel that I learned something from it and would go back to it for some of the surprising findings and anecdotes.


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