Monday, January 09, 2006

Two Non-Fiction Books.

I've read two really amazing non-fiction books lately...all right, I haven't finished the second one yet, but I'm almost there. The books are Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner and Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.

Freakonomics is, I've suddenly confused myself because they're both v. similar and I'm trying to remember what book was about what. In Freakonomics, the authors show how asking the right questions can unravel mysteries about life and connect things we had no idea could be connected (and that correlation doesn't equal causality, something many people could still stand to learn). Don't worry--you don't have to like or understand economics to enjoy this book (I do, though. Like economics.). This book doesn't feel like it's about economics. It's about life. And who knew economics could solve so many crimes (like finding out which teachers cheat on standardized tests). It certainly draws some controversial conclusions, like attributing the fall of crime rates in the 1990s to legalized abortion and saying that many parenting acts, like reading to your child or playing him Baby Mozart, really don't change the outcome of your child's personality or intellect. But it also presents some compelling arguments and evidence for every controversial claim.

Blink is the one I haven't finished yet, but it's my favorite of the two. It explores intuition and how some people make better snap judgments than others, how we "thin slice" situations. It's really amazing. There's this man who studies conversations between a married couple (the conversation has to be related to their life together, like an argument about their dog) and he can tell within minutes whether they will still be married in 15 years--his success rate is something like 95% percent! There are many other little stories and examples of how our intuition is so powerful. It discusses how what we think we want and like are usually different than what our actions tell--like, what we think we want in a person goes completely out the window once we actually become in contact with people (to demonstrate, the book presents a study on speed dating). It also shows how that once we start to analyze things, our accuracy about things becomes weaker (like, if we don't think about it, we can pick a criminal out of a lineup better than if we went over what the person looked like with the police before we looked at a lineup).

To test your own subconscious about issues like race, age, and sexuality, go to and take a few of their quizzes. You'll probably be surprised by your results.

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