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I don't review books I don't like!
*****= An all-time favorite
A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Reviewed July 13, 2005.
William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2005. 242 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN 330 LEV).
Here’s an entertaining book about numbers. Sound impossible? Well, of course I find that completely natural, but I think this is onethat others will find interesting as well.
The book is based on the work of an economist, but it doesn’t deal with things you’d normally associate with economics. What it does consistently deal with is statistics. Where was this book when I was trying toexplain the difference between correlation and causation to my statisticsclasses?
Now, Levitt and Dubner don’t deal with these statistics by blasting you with a series of numbers. What they do is talk about some surprising conclusions that can be drawn from different numerical data. They explain some of the reasoning behind the conclusions, but don’t go into the details of the number-crunching.
For example, it’s interesting to find that there’s a strong correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and his success on school tests, but there is no correlation between his success and whether his parents read to him every day. However, lest parents go out and buy lots of books for their kids to somehow absorb the knowledge, the authors explain whyone may not cause the other.
Another interesting study talks about how only the very top drug dealers make much money at it. However, like playing for the NFL, those rewards are so large, there are still lots of people willing to try for the bigtime, even though it’s not very profitable at the lower levels.
Putting lots of weight on test scores should pressure schools to become more successful at teaching, right? What if it ends up pressuring teachers to cheat for their kids? The authors look at some ways you can discover that a teacher is cheating.
This gives an idea of the wide variety of information presented in this book, looked at in a slightly different way than one would normally look atit.
Levitt has an underlying belief: “The modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.”
Review of another book by the authors:
Think Like a Freak
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All rights reserved.