I read this NYT magazine article about Steven Levitt a couple years ago and thought it was great. Levitt is an economist at the University of Chicago who spends his time trying to think up interesting ways to sift data to answer hard questions:
For instance: If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What really caused crime rates to plunge during the past decade? Do real-estate agents have their clients’ best interests at heart? Why do black parents give their children names that may hurt their career prospects? Do schoolteachers cheat to meet high-stakes testing standards? Is sumo wrestling corrupt?
When I heard that he and the article’s author, Stephen Dubner, had written a book together, I was psyched. Unfortunately, the book is incredibly shallow. There is basically no information in the book that isn’t in that original article. There’s a little bit more development, some more story telling, but really nothing substantive. It does give references to the papers that Levitt wrote on the various subjects, so if I were motivated, I could go to a library and dig those up. But the book itself provides very little insight into how Levitt thinks, which is a pity.
So, do what I did, and borrow the book. Or just skip the book entirely, read that article, and consider yourself done.