I’ve always been a fan of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. For anyone who doesn’t recognize the names, these two economists are the authors of Freakonomics, along with its direct sequel (SuperFreakonomics) and a book on their methods (Think Like a Freak). These books aim to apply economics reasoning to many questions we face, often with surprising results.
For example, in one of their books, the authors asked whether drunk walking or drunk driving is more dangerous. Despite what we might assume, they showed that on a per-mile basis, it’s actually more dangerous to walk drunk than to drive! And although this conclusion seems incorrect at first, the actual evidence and statistics support it.
Levitt and Dubner also run a blog, where they regularly update with many shorter stories and observations. Now, in “When to Rob a Bank”, they’ve compiled their blog posts into a new book, loosely organized by category of post.
On one hand, this isn’t a book – not really. It really does feel like reading a blog; the posts are only loosely connected to each other, and it’s more like a collection of little essays than a true story with a coherent narrative.
But on the other hand, all these little factoid tidbits are just so interesting that it’s hard to stop and put the book down!
I’m always going to be a sucker for applied data, and Levitt and Dubner do a great job of presenting complex questions in an easy-to-understand framework. While their books sometimes feel a little fluffy (this only took a couple hours to read), they’re still enjoyable enough for me to always snag them off a library shelf.
Time to read: 2 hours.