Amy Reads Books


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner My enjoyment of this book is probably best explained with my personal response to maths. I really didn't enjoy maths. Sitting and trying to solve strange equations that had no bearing on anything used to drive me crazy, and when I finished my GCSEs and never had to do it again, I was thrilled. However, there was a type of maths that I did enjoy; statistics. I liked the maths that actually had a clear reason, and was actually showing something important.So Freakonomics, a book founded on the basis that economics can reveal hidden trends in everything was pretty much right up my street. Stephen D. Levitt is an economist and Stephen J. Dubner is a New York Times journalist, whose interview with Levitt spurred the creation of the book. I honestly found much of what the book contained really interesting.Although what Levitt and Dubner discuss isn't necessarily new; a lot of it focuses on ideas that are widely circulated, such as the issues between different races, particularly white and African Americans and numerous problems involving crime and drugs. However, it is the presentation of these facts that make them so interesting. There are some aspects of the book that probably won't be to everyone's taste; for instance, Levitt suggests that there is a pretty direct link between the legalisation of abortion and the sudden drop in the crime rate in America in the early 1990s. Whilst this is a highly moral issue; as Levitt/Dubner says morality is how we want the world to work, economics is the study of how it actually works; you can't disregard the facts. Something that really interested me was the exploration of how teacher's cheated in standardised testing; it's something that one would think is hard to prove, but by exploring the data avaliable, individuals have done so and in Chicago some teachers even lost their jobs.My favourite thing about the book was the fact that it tied together sociology, criminology, politics and economics; I'll admit to not fully realising how easily these schools of knowledge properly intersected. The disciplines all reveal quite brilliantly how society has real, unavoidable trends, although they still do have some room to move inside; proven by the journeys of Roland G. Fryer Jr (an African-American economist) and Ted Kaczynski (a mail bomber) who from a purely trend analysis perspective would have had totally opposite outcomes to their actual lives.I'd really recommend Freakonomics, as a really accessibe way to understand the trends that make our society work the way it does. As I am not an economist, sociologist or a political science student (yet) I can't comment on how factually accurate the work is; but either way, it's a thoroughly enjoyable read.