Book Reviews : When to rob a bank

When to rob a bank – The Freakopedia (30)

 by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner

Let’s this particular book review with a question…

Is there a particularly good day  to rob a bank?

The answer, according to the guys behind Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics and this latest book is, erm, No!

However it doesn’t mean the messers Levit and Dubner won’t spend some time thinking about and then trying to answer the question…and many before besides.

You see “When to rob a bank” unlike the previous books from the pair behind Freakonomics is a compendium of thoughts, ideas and conversations from the blog of the same name.

It’s likely you’ve already heard of the ‘freakonomics’ books (or podcast) over the past few years but in case you haven’t let me explain what the two Steve’s tend to write about…

‘Freakonomics explores the hidden side of everything’ says the tagline on the website and it’s pretty much the most accurate description you’re going to get.

The inner workings of a drug empire, to political finance all the way through to less than honest school teachers, terrorism, Rock Bands, Leicester city FC and a few hundred more topics have been economically analysed, dissected and questioned in their various publications (which includes a brilliant podcast you can find here)

In this book the format allows the authors to share their thoughts on a wide range of topics including why you shouldn’t believe ‘self reporting’ surveys, why the book ‘good to great’ (which I read and reviewed earlier this year) might not be so great and when cheating and lying might be a good move.

The only issue with this particular format is that whilst the ideas come thick and fast ideas ripe for more explanation or exploration are cast aside.

Also whilst there is an attempt at some sort of narrative the order of the blogs often feels a bit random and muddled.

This however doesn’t take away from the fact that ‘when to rob a bank’ is a cracking read. The authors write with humour and aren’t afraid of lampooning their own ideas and making their own mistakes…this combination of wise, funny and humble writing is an attractive counterpoint to many factual books which are written like they know all the answers.

What also shines through is the authors curiosity. As you’d imagine from two men who have been trained as an economist and a journalist, Mr Dubner and Mr Levitt aren’t afraid of asking questions…even ones which many might consider sensitive to ask.

I’d recommend ‘When to bob a bank’ if you’d read the previous Freakonomics books. However if you’ve never read a freakonomics  book before I’d suggest starting with the original Freakonomics is probably the best move.

You can pick up your copy of When to rob a bank – The Freakopedia here


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