SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

super_freakonomicsNonfiction — print. William Morrow, 2009. 219 pgs. Library copy.

I read Levitt and Dubner’s first book, Freakonomics, in March 2008, and I absolutely loved it. I thought it was ingenious, witty, and made economics interesting for the Average Joe who doesn’t find this particular field as fascinating as I do. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when the “sequel” to the book hit the shelves in October 2009 I would immediately add it to The List.

SuperFreakonomics — subtitled “Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance” — covers everything in the subtitle and then some, including child car seats, drunk walkers, emergency rooms in America, volcano eruptions, chemotherapy, and why you don’t want to be born nine months after Ramadan.

My first reaction when I finished this book was I’m still not quite sure how prostitutes are patriotic. No, really, I don’t understand. And somehow discussion of terrorism can lead to discussions about the syncing of medical data on computers and how to rate and rank doctors, which then leads to emphasis on the timing of your birth and the importance of the first letter of your last name, only to be rounded out with a British banker who created an algorithm to find terrorists based on their banking habits and why terrorist should buy life insurance. The book is comprised of one tangent after another that are thinly stringed together; it reads more like anecdotes or bits of each graduate student’s research.

There is a chapter focusing on a Seattle man who says that the way to prevent hurricanes were to warm the ocean in the context of unintended consequences. However, wouldn’t warming the temperature of the ocean have unintended consequences that would most likely exceed its benefits? That’s never discussed in the chapter. When discussing the introduction of seat belts into cars, Levitt and Dubner ignore the probability that air bags, safer car exteriors, safer auto glass, etc might have had some influence on the decline in the car accident related deaths.

Everything else I’ve already forgotten seven hours later, which means this book was a sore disappointment.


  1. lena

    I’ve had Freakonomics on my list for too long and have no good excuse for not having read it. I’m really intrigued by both books but I guess I’ll just stick to the first. Thanks for the review!


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