Tipping Point, Blink and Freakonomics

I enjoy reading non-fiction books and Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors. He published two best sellers, The Tipping Point and Blink. The former explains how social phenomena emerge and focuses on the tipping points, small factors that have caused great changes in the society. In the latter book, he argues about the power of snap judgements and the importance of trusting our senses. His style is argumentative, in the sense that he makes an observation and supports his claim with research findings in social sciences.

Freakonomics, a recent best seller, resembles Gladwell’s style in content and writing. It is written by Stephen Dubner, another writer at the New Yorker where Malcolm Gladwell also regularly writes. The book is based on the ideas of an economist, Steven Levitt, at the University of Chicago. He’s presented as an original thinker with opposing ideas to conventional wisdom. His ideas were mostly based on game theory and regression analysis, mainly simple things you never cared to explore. Journalists like to create heroes and present people as genius, surely Levitt has some interesting thoughts and findings, but does that make him Einstein? I think his studies are more in line with sociology rather than economics, but you know what they say: Economics is not about money.

The book reminded me the Games and Strategies course I have taken from Özgür Kıbrıs. His lectures were always fun, and this was the kind of course that doesn’t rely on loading you with information. Instead, it presents a new perspective, a way of looking at things you encounter during your daily life. It’s the kind of university course that you will be grateful for the rest of your life. Levitt’s book mentions incentives people have, and why you shouldn’t trust your real estate agent because the 10% commission he gets from selling your house for $15,000 higher is just $150 more for him, which is certainly not worth his effort. These kinds of things are obvious, but you don’t seem to notice them. For instance, have you noticed the pun in the Turkish name Özgür Kıbrıs, or was it just another name for you?

If I had to compare the two authors, I would say that Gladwell’s books are more satisfactory in writing style, story telling and perhaps literary value, whereas Freakonomics seems to contain more interesting ideas and in depth analysis. Nevertheless, both books are worthy in their interesting content and are definitely quality reads.

And last, it was surprising to find a reference to works of Ali Hortaçsu, a Turkish citizen who turns out to be working at the same university with the author. Either the world is getting smaller, or Turks are starting to make more room for themselves at American universities, which is certainly a good thing for us.

July 23, 2006

sarp centel

Sarp is a software developer. He writes about technology, books and software.
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