What’s it about? Freakonomics is a collaboration between Steven D. Levitt, a much-heralded economist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist, which considers some very unusual – some might even say “freakish” – questions. These include: What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime? The answers Levitt and Dubner reach to these questions show the world to be an intriguing place in which conventional wisdom is often very wrong.
Is the narrator any good? This audio book is narrated by the co-author Stephen Dubner. It is obvious that Dubner is no voice actor, but still he does a good job. Some people may think he sounds a bit geeky, but I think it suits the topic of the book.
The verdict? Since its original publication in 2005, Freakonomics has been a smash hit with more than four million copies sold in 35 languages. I can understand its popularity – I found this audio book to be a mix of smart thinking and great storytelling. Who would have thought a book about statistics could be so enjoyable?
I do have some criticisms though: occasionally the stats became a bit too much (I’m thinking of the lists of baby names in one particular chapter). Also, while I think it’s great that the conclusions are data-driven, I would be hesitant to take all the findings as gospel as there are limitations to Levitt’s methods and data. Still, this is a thought-provoking audio book that will encourage you to challenge conventional wisdom and has the potential to change the way you look at the world. This audio book is well worth a listen, especially if you like authors such as Malcolm Gladwell.