Superfreakonomics Book Review

Before learning about mavens in The Tipping Point, the magic 10,000 Hours in Outliers or the fact that the biggest trends are actually the smallest from Microtrends, my appetite for social sciences books and the examination of societal patterns and trends was whet with Freakonomics. So when publisher Harper Collins contacted me to review SuperFreakonomics, I jumped at the chance.

superfreakonomicsIn product development and marketing, being first to market brings huge gains, and I’ve often wondered if it was the novelty factor that caused me to continually revere Freakonomics as the best of the social sciences books I’ve read. But I hadn’t even made it through the introduction to be pleasantly convinced that Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner are the real deal. Not only are their discoveries and insights intriguing, the presentation thereof is entertaining and humorous.

In the 24 hours of first starting to read the book, I enthusiastically shared with others some of the fascinating tidbits of information I’d gained, including

  • how your banking habits can belie your propensity to terrorism
  • the perils of walking drunk
  • how we could prevent hurricanes
  • the suspicion that ice cream caused childhood polio
  • that “big-ass volcanoes” may be a key to climate change

What is so interesting about the Ste(ph/v)ens is that they not only share discrete random facts to be pulled out at cocktail parties, they leave the readers with some fodder for debate at said parties. Most notably, the chapter on climate change introduces what is seemingly a plausible solution to some of our woes. If this information is introduced to and accepted by a widespread audience, can we generate the support to put some plans into action?

With this book, we are introducing a whole new collection of facts with which to explore how people respond to incentives in interesting and unexpected ways. Just as stories recounted in the original Freakonomics challenged our individual beliefs and entered our societal body of knowledge, so too will the insights in this book. You may as well read it, as you’ll be talking about it in the future anyway.