Sunday, 13 November 2011

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

A book on economics? A book by an economist and a New York Times journalist? A book about random subjects with no specific theme that connects them all? Who would read a book like that?

When Shutterbug Sister recommended this to be, I had to give it a try as she has lent me a few very good books. The cover made me look twice – I wouldn’t have thought books about economics have rappers, glamorous-looking pregnant women or sumo wrestlers on them.

But Freakonomics perspective is different, rather than working with sources and sets of data that tell stories about crime, education or poverty, Levitt compares disparate, almost random seeming sets of data to see what they throw up. So crime figures are compared to abortion rates, the control of information to the rise and fall of the KKK and the names of babies are compared to people’s socioeconomic status.

Levitt starts out by asking a question – why do drug dealers live at home with their mothers if they earn so much? Does the way you raise your child have any impact on their chance of success in life? Dies the name you give have any impact on their chance of success in life?

The book is accessible and easy enough to understand. The narrative is disparate and varied, jumping from sumo’s to crack dealers to the KKK, but it always remains interesting and engaging. The exception is where the books start’s to discuss the authors methodology – how data sets were extracted and what was done to them to find trends and patterns. I suspect anyone without an interest in statistics or research methodology might start to lose patience at this point.

Regardless this is an interesting book that throws up some very surprising findings – most drug dealers don’t actually earn very much, sumo’s might be cheating (absolute blasphemy to the Japanese), the numerous things we break our back doing to raise our children to be successful might not actually make any difference (as a lazy mama, I was rather gleeful at the last one!).

Probably not one I would recommend to everybody, but if you like reading about issues that are current and if you want to read something that will make you sit up and argue (I wasn’t convinced by everything the authors were saying), then this might be for you.

You can see some of the content of the book and other similar topics the authors have explored at the Freakonomics blog here.

Book Love: Dr Zeus Book Charm Bracelet

40 Day Photo Challenge - A Few Bits of Reading

Day 3 of the 40 day photo challenge I have set for myself and I'm still not paying attention to things I could take pictures of.  Having three rowdy kids and a busy house might have something to do with that. 

I took this picture at bed time.  This is what makes me feel like a child in a candy shop - BOOKS.  My only dilemma, where to start?!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Whatever You Think Think The Opposite by Paul Arden

I have been an avid reader of self-help books since my teenage years. Since then I have become a little more cynical about them and fewer convince me they are worth reading. Nevertheless, between the good ones (Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Barbara Sher, Lawrence Boldt) I have picked up enough good advice to stand me in good stead over the years.

After a day in which my mind has been going round in circles for hours and I needed a kick up the backside to get myself up and motivated, I thought I might find some peace in my local bookshop, especially with the book token that Fashionista Sister gave me. I headed straight for the self-help and after browsing and sneaking peeks for rather a long time, this striking little book caught my attention.

The book is short and very visual. It took me half an hour to read the 143 or so pages. The author is a former executive creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi, the famous advertising company and the book feels like a cross between lessons from a successful businessman and the anarchist’s handbook.

Its aim seems to be to make you think, to look at things from a different perspective and to question the accepted wisdom of what leads to success.

My first thought on finishing the book, was what a rip-off! I spent all that money on a book that’s very short and that’s just a series of things I have probably read in other books already. But it was probably worth the price for the one or two pieces of advice that stuck with me.

On the one hand, I didn’t agree with everything in the book. It seems to say that if you conform, if you work hard, if you toe the line and do the right thing then you are a loser, you are destined to fail. On the other hand it made me think; it reinforced that it’s okay to be different (a Muslimah, a hijabi, a geek, a nerd, a working mother) and it is right to stand up for that difference.

A word of warning the book contains a few of pictures of naked men (adding nothing to the book, but you know advertising types love the value of shock).

You can find a summary of the book’s messages here. Would be interested to know what reaction other people have to the book.