As planned, I made it through Freakonomics on my recent business trip. In fact, I got through the main body of the book before landing in Denver on the first leg. In this it reminds me of David McCullough’s 1776 – great book, but it seems like you’re halfway through the volume when suddenly the story stops and the endnotes begin. (“Ripoff!” I said, “Who wins?!”)
But I digress. Freakonomics is an easy read – ultimately almost too easy. Much fascinating insight, yes. Great statistical analysis, yes, I think. I’m no economist (old saw: An economist is a person who has the mathematical skills to be an accountant but not enough personality) but even I can see that the book sprinkles a lot of assumptions in with the quantitative stuff. Or else they chose to gloss over a lot of the details. That’s what makes it so easy to read, on the one hand, but also left me wanting a bit more rigor in certain places. Most or all of the chapters are based on Levitt’s academic papers, and while I’m not jonesing to read the papers themselves – possibly excepting the one about the economic structure of a crack-dealing street gang – I think the book would have been stronger with a dozen more pages, carefully selected. But that’s a petty complaint. Though-provoking stuff and I’m happy to have read it. The authors’ blog is on my blogroll.
Having ripped through that I was reduced to buying yet another Michael Connelly mystery in the meager airport bookstore for the Denver-to-NY leg. Turns out to be a new paperback edition of a 1994 book, The Concrete Blonde. I think I have read four or five of his books and you pretty much know what you’re getting – it’s well done, it’s engaging, it’s brain candy of a sort that probably doesn’t cater to one’s nobler instincts. I must say he really nailed the last sentence. As the reader, you have to earn it, of course – if you skip ahead you’ll miss all the resonance. One of the things I love about books.
Next: Just started reading The Princess Bride out loud to my daughter. It’s smart stuff – a completely grown up book. As much as I loved the movie, this is more fun.