Friday, April 22, 2005
Freakonomics: Phone Home 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner I just noticed that one of Blogger's recent "Blogs of Note" is the Freakonomics blog by Stephen J. Dubner, New York Times columnist and co-author (with Steven Levitt) of the bestselling book. Prof. Levitt's old-school ("RRIING RRIING") phone has been jingling off the hook for the past week or so, since Freakonomics' release...and it's a bit annoying. How would I know that? Let's just say...that I do have firsthand knowledge of that darned phone. Several times, I have plotted to unscrew the bottom of that phone to tape some cotton batting around the bell to muffle its ungodly clangor; the only thing that's stopped me is the knowledge I would soon be discovered as the Phantom Phone Muffler of the Economics Department.* ;)

Freakonomics is engrossing, tasty, and easy to digest, even for non-economists; as Dubner writes on the back cover, readers will have "ammunition for a thousand cocktail parties." If the mere thought of poring through an economics text for fun makes your eyes glaze over, fear not. This moderately sized tome reads like an intriguing cocktail party conversation itself - the kinds where stories morph seamlessly from cheating teachers and sumo wrestlers, to how the Ku Klux Klan was stymied by the Superman radio show - to information asymmetries in online dating. It's the sort of magical armchair lecture where you completely lose track of the day, marveling at not only the orator's bottomless store of knowledge, but at the conceptual connections they conjure between seemingly disparate topics. If nothing else, Freakonomics reveals a host of strikingly fresh tethers between "apples" and "oranges," and shows us that our outwardly incomprehensible world moves in non-so-mysterious ways, after all.

* Not so strange as it may seem at first glance, and clever readers will put Google to good use. "You will not be saved by Ron Popeil, Dick Cheney, or the iPod. You will not be saved by speedreading and Botox. In fact, you WILL NOT BE SAVED."