The faculty at my school volunteers to sponsor one summer reading selection. Students have more choices (and more eclectic choices) and can discuss a book with a faculty member they might not otherwise have the opportunity to discuss books with. We limit seminars to ten students, so popular books fill up fast. For the second year in a row, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner has been one of the fastest-filling seminars. Last year it was sponsored by one of our Assistant Co-Heads who has a background in business and manages finances for our school. This year, it was sponsored by one of our social studies teachers who counts economics among his responsibilities.
The book is a fascinating look into some of the economic factors that you might not necessarily think about but that nevertheless have an impact on our lives. When I was a young teen, one of my favorite books was called Boyd’s Book of Odd Facts. I find trivia interesting, and I love learning about weird things. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Levitt and Dubner are dealing in trivia, but the book reminded me of Boyd’s Book in that I had the same feeling reading both: my verbal exclamations prompted Steve to ask me to read what I was reading. The book might be best known for its controversial stance that the passage of Roe v. Wade led to a decrease in crime in the 1990’s when the effects of unwanted children being born might first have been felt in terms of crime. While I found that chapter compelling, I was less interested in sumo wrestlers. I found the chapter on naming practices to be one of the more interesting parts of the book, but perhaps that is because I’m intrigued by naming practices.
The inclusion of some additional materials added only nominally to my enjoyment of the book. I will bet that French Roast in Manhattan wishes the extra material hadn’t been included. Overall, I would have to say the book is a light, interesting read, and I can certainly see why so many of our students are drawn to it. You can learn more about Freakonomics at its website.