Book Review: Superfreakanomics

Authors of the smash hit Freakanomics are back with more of the same, with the most predictably titled book of all time, Superfreakanomics.

The book is essentially an extension on the first. Why mess with a good thing, right? They explore topics that, at first glance, seem pretty trivial. Once they delve into them though, they become pretty interesting. Most of the time, the authors seek to defy conventional thinking on a topic.

The book is an easy read, checking in at a little over 200 pages. The authors do a good job taking subjects that could potentially be pretty dry and keeping them interesting. The Amazon reviews generally don’t care for the jokes the authors used, but I thought they were fine.

Various topics covered in the book include:

Is it safer to walk or drive drunk? It turns out that on a per mile basis, driving is much safer than walking. At least, for the driver it is anyway. The more interesting fact of that discussion is that 1 out of every 140 miles driven in the US is driven by a drunk driver. That’s certainly more than I expected.

How is a prostitute like a department store santa? Probably the best chapter in the entire book. It talks about the business of prostitution, using mountains of data collected from the same guy who collected the data on street gangs for the first Freakanomics. Absolutely fascinating chapter about capitalism at its purest form.

Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance? This chapter talks about the work being done by computer programmers to catch all sorts of people who are doing things we don’t want them to do. Most of the chapter focuses on stopping terrorists and some of the interesting ways computers are being used to screen the potential bad guys based on their banking habits.

Unbelievable stories about apathy and altruism: The main argument in this chapter is that we’re arguably more selfish than we’d like to believe. Probably the weakest chapter in the book.

The fix is in- and it’s cheap and easy: This chapter talks about how a quick and easy solution to a problem is often the best. They talk about how doctors simply washing their hands more would lead to many saved lives. They talk about the effectiveness of car seats for children over 2 (maybe my favorite part of the book) and unconventional ways to lessen the severity of hurricanes.

What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common: This is the chapter all the controversy is all about. The authors suggest some cures for global warming that are very, uh, out there. If you enter the chapter with an open mind, I think you’ll find it interesting. If you already have a preconception about global warming, then you probably won’t agree with these guys.

All in all, I probably didn’t enjoy the sequel as much as the original, which is pretty standard for a sequel. It’s still a solid read, definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a think outside of the box kind of person.

Ranking: 4 uproars out of 6 calm situations