Friday, 26 March 2010

Superfreak Is Super Boring

As you may, or more likely may not remember, I have recently written about a couple of popular books on economics. One turned out to be more a book on popular economics, and the other I liked much better, but that's another matter altogether. You can go back to that post and read about that.

Here, I want to follow up on a promise I made, and that is to read and give my opinion on the sequel to Freakonomics, the not-so-originally titled Superfreakonomics. Unfortunately, I must admit can fulfil my promise only up to a point. The reason? I gave up on Superfreakonomics after reading a little bit more than half of it.

Yes, it was that boring. I rarely give up on books, especially not after going through the effort (pain?) of reading a half. What gives then? Read on...

While my main gripe with Freakonomics was that, while it did cleverly ferret out surprising explanations for some interesting problems of everyday life, it did not really bother with the logical next step of, having identified the problem, proposing a possible solution (or at least solutions). The word gimmicky comes to mind, unfortunately.

Well, the sequel, Superfreakonomics, continues in a similar vein. However, where the Freakonomics consisted mostly of original research by Levitt, its sequel reads more like a review of other people's interesting research over the past decade or so. I kid you not. Being a voracious follower of news of all kinds, but especially in areas of natural sciences, politics, and economics, I can vouch that, in the past decade or so, I have come across most, if not all, things found in the book, and not from the pen of either Levitt or Dubner. That Superfreakonomics again fail to offer any kind of serious proposal for solving problems it "identifies" (or rather, recounts other people's research into them) is almost beside the point. What solutions are proposed are again not Levitt's nor Dubner's, unless of the off-the-cuff, jovial kind.

And that is why I have eventually decided not to waste any more time on Superfreakonomics. Whatever is in the second half of it I have either already read about, or am bound to read about sometime in the future, and from the horses mouth, too, if you want. There are better, and more important books I want to read, and now can start on having discarded Superfreakonomics.

Even if one such book is The 120 Days Of Sodom, by the venerable Marquis de Sade. At least it is a classic, and I doubt that Freakonomics, Super or otherwise will ever be.

If you do not spend as much time reading about stuff as I do, you may still find both Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics interesting, even useful. Just don't expect that they'll offer any way out of the problems they (or others, in case of Superfreakonomics) have so cleverly identified.