Thursday, April 28, 2011


by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
narrated by Stephen Dubner
[New York, N.Y.] : Harper Audio, 2005.

Steven Levitt doesn't study what you'd expect for an economist. He takes economic principles like incentive and regression analysis and applies them to every day life with questions like, "How can you show that teachers are cheating on their classroom's standardized tests?" and "What contributed to the drop in crime in the 1990s?"

The answers to these and other questions are often surprising and always interesting. Because each chapter focuses on a different topic, nothing is explored in depth. This made it a perfect audiobook for my commute, because I didn't get lost in detailed explanations. Levitt and Dubner explain their analysis clearly and use a lot of anecdotes or analogies to get their points across, rather than a detailed statistical breakdown. This is also the book's greatest weakness, however; because no one subject is explored in great depth, I'm left with more questions than before, and am not satisfied but the general treatment received here on subjects like parenting and baby names. The audiobook is well read by Dubner himself, but I am going to take a look at the print version as well for a few details not included in the audio: a chart in the chapter on cheating, and the lists of baby names with all their variant spellings (sometimes the names were spelled out, but more often "another spelling of --" served). I became mildly annoyed by the chapter intros quoting from Dubner's previously published profile of Levitt and the repetition of the different between correlation and causation, but these were minor irritants in an overall enjoyable book.

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