Think Like a Freak Review

I thought it was high time I mixed it up and wrote another book review.

If you have read Freakonomics or Superfreakonomics, then you are acquainted with the writing duo of Steven Levitt and Stephan Dubner. They broke the mold of economic thinking to create a hugely successful “freak” empire. They have a documentary on Netflix, a wildly popular podcast listed to by about three million people a month, according to Dubner, and three bestselling books. It seems like they might be on to something.

That is the basic premise behind Think Like a Freak, their newest book. It uses examples to tell you, yes YOU, how to fashion your mind into a mold-busting machine. Kind of like a self-help book for aspiring economists.

I was familiar with Freakonomics, the books and the brand, before I picked this book up. Although it had been awhile since I had read them. And, to be completely honest, I’m not sure if I finished the other two. But I definitely had what marketers call “positive brand association” with the idea of a new “freak” book, so I decided to check it out.

The first thing that is very clear about this book is that it is not going to be a third Freakonomics. There was always a level of “here are the facts, draw conclusions” in those books. They remained detached to a certain extent. Here, the entire book was prescriptive. It flat out told you what to do. But, it still uses examples that feel very familiar. They have the old-Freakonomics flair.

When I finished the book I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. It had passed the time in an adequately enjoyable manner. But I thought it lacked some oomph. It just wasn’t as thought provoking as I had hoped. Most of the advice seemed pretty straight forward, especially if you were familiar with their earlier work.

I think that is the downfall of this book. On its own, it would probably have been pretty good, but when compared to its best-selling older brothers, it suffers by comparison. I read some of the other Goodreads reviews, and the overall feeling was, the more familiar you are with their work, the less you enjoyed this book. Much of the content is also in their podcast series, so listeners especially felt it was a bit unnecessary.

However, if you aren’t as familiar with Freakonomics, this might be a great place to dive in. Think Like a Freak is still an interesting and well-crafted book. And if you are the kind of person who prefers topics that relate directly to your life, it fits the bill. For me, this was a satisfying book; it just didn’t blow me away.


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