Book 10 of 52: "Think Like a Freak" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The authors of this book might be recognizable – they’re the same two guys who wrote Freakonomics, followed by the sequel, Superfreakonomics.  They are great at showing how a lot of behavior that, on its face seems irrational, is actually totally logical and can be explained.  They also show how sometimes, making a decision that seems crazy might be the best possible option to do.

Now, in their third book, Think Like a Freak, Levitt and Dubner claim to be able to teach all of us rubes how to think in the same way as them; how to take a situation and turn it on its head, looking at an unusual approach as a solution that might work better than the old “tried and true” method.

So, how do they fare?

In terms of getting all of us to think like Freaks, I have to admit that I’m not super impressed.  A lot of the actual lessons in this book are more “try things and see what happens,” and “don’t be afraid to try something new, even if your boss doesn’t immediately agree.”  Good lessons, sure, but nothing groundbreaking.

But despite the lack of a full, coherent message, the book is very good at doing what Levitt and Dubner do best – providing tons of real-life detailed examples of how people have used strange solutions to solve complex problems.  They discuss:

  • Zappos, the shoe company that gets thousands of applications for each $11/hour position;
  • A “one-and-done” mailing that provides a huge boost in charity donations;
  • A ban on cobras – that resulted in a lot more cobras;
  • Why kids are bad audiences for magicians;
And many more fun topics.
The book is short and fluffy, but it’s still a definitely fun read, and evokes a lot of great conversations, if nothing else.
Time to read: 2 hours.  Seriously, it’s short, and even shorter than it initially feels thanks to a lengthy list of citations.  
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