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Monday, December 28, 2009

Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

My internet break is officially over. I decided to go almost "cold turkey" 0ver the Christmas holiday, only checking in via my phone to respond to any email requiring a quick response (plus using my phone to check a few football scores when radio or television was not available). Surprisingly, I suffered no withdrawal pain and I find myself returning to the net rather reluctantly this morning (especially since so many book bloggers seem to have done the same thing).

Now I need to see if I can remember how to write a relatively coherent book review, so here goes.

I am a fan 0f the previous "Freakonomics" book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dunbar so I knew what to expect when I began Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance. The book's tantalizing subtitle displays the overall tone and subject matter of the book: an irreverent look at topical issues, using humor and common sense to debunk some of the most common assumptions most of us have made about our world. Much as the first book, Superfreakonomics is fun to read and will leave the reader wondering why facts that make so much sense come as such a surprise.

Some of what the authors say will scare the reader and some of it will make him laugh and feel better about the world. In either case, however, the reader is not likely to forget what he learns, nor is he likely ever again to look at that topic the way he looked at it before beginning Superfreakonomics. The authors tackle big, important topics that affect all of us as well as subjects which, although they might have no impact on our individual lives, are intriguing because of how the authors present them through surprising facts and relationships that change what we thought we knew.

One of the more terrifying chapters in Superfreakonomics involves the astounding number of patients that die in hospital from causes unrelated to the treatment they sought there in the first place. The authors, via statistics, interviews and observation, determine why secondary infection is still such a problem in American hospitals and who is responsible for spreading the infection to unsuspecting patients. The "who" is not so surprising; it is the "why" that will anger most readers. The chapter also explores the "luck of the draw" involved in doctor-assignments to emergency room patients - with surprising revelations about which doctor offers the patient the best chance of survival.

Other topics include: the relative ineffectiveness of chemotherapy, why prostitutes make more money for less work on one particular night of the week, why switching to kangaroo burgers could help save the world, a comparison of seat belt effectiveness to that of car seats for children two and up, and a likely solution to the global warming problem that the world can actually afford (but will probably ignore because it will be repugnant to those too "green" to consider it).

Superfreakonomics might not be a book for everyone (if there is such a thing) but readers should not be put off by its title and subject matter. This book is fun to read and it will give its readers something to talk about at the next boring party or group dinner - topics that are likely to dominate the conversation for the rest of the evening.

Rated at: 5.0
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