A Sequel to Freakonomics

Super Freakonomics


SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (William Morrow, 2009), Steven Levitt, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the College and director of the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory at Chicago Booth, and Stephen Dubner

After their bestseller, Freakonomics, was hailed in 2005 for changing the way the world looks at economics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner continue to explore provocative topics in SuperFreakonomics. In writing about the hidden side of such unlikely subjects as global warming and how to catch a terrorist, they mix sharp thinking and storytelling in a sequel that brings their economic insight to bear on everyday matters.

When the book was published in October, it debuted as number-two on the New York Times bestseller list, and media quickly weighed in. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Not only a book with mind-blowing ideas, innovative research, and quality investigative journalism, it’s also a story about creativity and what it takes to get the mindset to turn conventional concepts upside down. The authors have found their stride with SuperFreakonomics.”

National Public Radio said, “Seen most appropriately as an extension of Freakonomics rather than as a divergent sequel, SuperFreakonomics’ 220 pages are breezy and casual, its musings perfect for cocktail-party fodder. An afternoon with Levitt and Dubner’s book will transform you into the most interesting person in the room that evening.”

The book looks at why doctors don’t always wash their hands, whether people are hardwired for altruism, and whether television caused a rise in crime, among other topics.
Levitt and Dubner are authors of Freakonomics, a popular blog they launched in 2005 “to keep the conversation going” that has brought them, along with their books, international renown. Many Chicago Booth faculty members have written entries or have been featured on the blog, including Anil Kashyap, Edward Eagle Brown Professor of Economics and Finance, and Emily Oster, assistant professor of economics.—P.H.

From Blog to Print

Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism (University of Chicago Press, 2009), Gary Becker, University Professor of Economics and of Sociology, and Richard Posner

After his 19-year stretch writing a monthly column for BusinessWeek came to an end, Nobel laureate Gary Becker missed writing and decided to launch a blog in 2004 with federal judge Richard Posner, senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and a prolific writer. Uploading to their blog, each posts a 500- to 1,000-word weekly essay on a topical theme, and the other writes a slightly shorter response. The blog established a wide readership and reputation for the authors’ thought-provoking comments on current events.

Their wisdom, wit, and repartee — complete with updates and reconsiderations — is now collected in Uncommon Sense, a compilation of 50 essays and responses posted from 2005 to 2007, with topics ranging from CEO compensation to the ban on trans fats at New York restaurants.

The book has been well received by the media. The Financial Times said it “is like a series of tutorials from a good teacher, and the object of a good teacher is not to tell the student the answers. The objective is to equip the student to think more effectively about the quite different problems that he or she will face in everyday life. Tutorials with Becker and Posner would undoubtedly be very valuable experiences.”

The Chicago Tribune said that reading the book was “the best way of getting into the economics of what is known as the ‘Chicago School’ without paying tuition.”—P.H.

Last Updated 7/7/10