You've probably heard about this book from friends, family or the media. Unlike many books that create this much buzz, Freakonomics is NOT over-hyped and does in fact deliver on its promise of being a fun read that explores the hidden side of many everyday parts of society. The insights are clever, and the stories are memorable.
Even if the reader does not agree with the statements of the authors, each story in the collection is at worst thought-provoking and at best funny, revealing and intriguing all at the same time.
I was excited about this book because I am a self-avowed "word geek", but ended up disappointed. This is really a philosophy book, with (sometimes) interesting reflections on how the brain and human nature affect the languages we speak.
While this would be a great book to read for an academic course, in my mind Pinker's writing did not possess the story-telling ability required to make the academic details of what he was explaining seem intuitive or compelling (a la "Blink" by Gladwell or "Freakconomics" by Dubner & Levitt).
The book does get more enjoyable after the first hour or two (I almost didn't make it), but the material covered there seemed less novel (e.g., the cycles of baby's names has been covered many times over in the pop-psychology genre).
I was excited about this book because its description espoused an idea with which I adamantly agree: that a combination of factors (media coverage, political cynicism, etc) have led the US to become a climate where critical thinking is rarely a prerequisite holding a political belief.
However, this book just never clicked with me. Many of Gore's arguments seemed like fairly obvious generalizations at a high level, and yet when he dives into the details few of his arguments are backed by any real evidence.
I really wanted this book to be good, and maybe it got better, but I didn't get more than a couple hours into it.
Kinzer tells a fascinating story that grabs your attention while providing detailed information about a historical topic that is still very salient today.
After finishing this book, one can't help but be fascinated by the fact that the US and British role in squelching Iranian democracy and installing their own puppet ruler is not more widely known. This book was very enlightening in helping me understand an important part of Iranian history; and one which still has a significant impact on middle east policy today. I found the level of detail and quality of storytelling superb.
This book tells the story of the founding settlement of Australia, with detailed descriptions of the English penal system, details of maritime life, famines and other issues faced by the settlers, and the interactions with aboriginal tribes.
While I normally consume such historical novels, I found this one pretty tedious and slow. The narrative just never really seemed to pick up steam. Still, I did learn a decent amount about early Australia, which is worth something.
Diamond is indeed a good storyteller, but the content of the book was far more insular than I expected. The text could be more aptly titled: "Environmental Collapses of Society: Then & Now". This is a book about how misuse of environmental resources have led to the collapse of many past societies and how it threatens to do the same to our own society.
The two points that I found unsatisfactorily address were: 1) How applicable are past lessons about resource use and reliance from Easter Island and Viking Greenland to 1st world societies today? 2) What factors outside of our environmental reliance on dwindling resources may also contribute to 1st-world collapse in the modern age? The first question was dealt with quickly only via a straw man argument, while the later is not touched on at all.
That said, the book does provide interesting cultural history lessons, and its applicability to the third world today (as evidenced in the Hati and Rwanda examples) is compelling. Diamond also provides a interesting look at what economic factors contribute to certain industries being more or less environmentally responsible. This section was compelling, but too small a portion of the whole text in my opinion.
If you are looking for a book on the management of natural resources, or a look at several interesting historical cultures, I think you will enjoy this book. If, like me, you are looking for a more pragmatic discussion of the large problems threatening society today, you may want to pass.
Reading this book made me realize how little I knew about the details of the struggle that created our nation. While the book is long, it doesn't feel like it as McCullough works his way through the days of 1776 with a compelling mixture of historical fact and details about characters both large and small.
The main downside to this book in my mind is that there is no follow-up titles to cover the years 1778, 1779, and beyond with a similir level of detail and intrigue.
While comments that this book is a bit too long, or spends time explaining concepts familiar to many do have some merit, overall I found this book to be an enjoyable listen that kept me eager to keep listening for long periods at a time.
What makes this book so interesting in my opinion is the level of detail combined with Friedman's candid and reasonable thoughts on where these changes are taking our world. On several occasions I found myself mentioning examples cited in the book to friends, engendering interesting conversations on the topics related to globalization.
This is the first of Friedman's books that I have read, so I can't speak to whether it overlaps with past works, but I would highly recommend it to any friend who is eager to learn more about the changing nature of our world's economies.
While I completed the book, I found only a few occasions where the story actually grabbed me enough make me wish I could keep listening even once my commute listening period was over.
The book was hardly a revealing glance into the world of washington law firms, but at times seemed like a prolonged swipe at lawyers for working too hard and ignoring other factors of their lives.
Often, the story line was easy to predict before the author "revealed" the next step in the plot-line to the listener, and there were points when I felt I was listening to cheap dime-store fiction. That said, certain aspects of the book were interesting and in some cases even amusing, though they were too few and far between for me to recommend this book to a friend.
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