Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Geeze Louise Freakonomics wound me up. Imagine reading a really good book. It’s so interesting that you lay awake with it well past midnight. You eagerly return to it on your work breaks, happy that you’re only two thirds through and have another good chunk to go. And then you turn the page and discover that actually, the book is over. The entire last third is a schmaltzy, over-the-top biography praising the author to high heaven. There are a few of his old columns shoved in for good measure, even if half of them only repeat the information from the book proper. Oh and there’s a Q&A. Wonderful. If you too would like to repeat this experience, then Freakonomics is the book for you!

Half the reason I found it so frustrating is that I genuinely did enjoy the book itself. It was interesting, engaging, and right up until the two-thirds mark, lived up to all the hype surrounding it. Some of the information made me sit up and blink – if drinking eight glasses of water a day “has never actually been shown to do a thing for your health”, then screw you hydration, I’m returning to my life as a Fanta addict. Also the fact that “There are enough guns in the United States that if you gave one to every adult, you would run out of adults before you ran out of guns.” Wow.

However, the fact that I’ve come away so grumpy with it has made me overly nitpicky, and I have to point out that the predictions made for most popular baby names of 2015 are hilarious. There sure are a whole raft of little Avivas, Flannerys, Lindens, Waverlys, Johans and Aldos out there!

I have to admit that I did look up Superfreakonomics as soon as I finished (scowling all the way as I skimmed through the last third), but frankly I’m just too annoyed with this book to buy the next one. I wouldn’t totally rule it out in future, but it’s certainly nowhere near the top of my list.

[Read from 14-15 December 2016]

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