Kersten Kelly’s Ec•o•nom•ics: A Simple Twist on Normalcy takes a lot of inspiration from Freakonomics. Anyone expecting a rehash of that book is going to be sorely disappointed, however. Kelly’s work stands on its own, and its goal is to make a vast, complex subject a little more understandable. Does it work? Yes, but with a price.
Kelly writes in a very conversational style, which helps when dealing with economics and the theories that drive the marketplace and consumers. She examines the complexities behind things like what dictates lipstick purchases in a struggling economy and the how people’s decisions are swayed on a show like Deal or No Deal and then ties them into simple economics. If you have a passing interest in this subject, this book will whet your appetite for more. If you are a seasoned pro, however, you may find it a little too basic, but that is the book’s allure. While Freakonomics, a book I enjoyed, took strange situations (such as how legalized abortion affected the crime rate) and applied science to it, Kelly takes ordinary situations that we take for granted and examines why they work the way they do. Fast food, car purchases, the Cold War, extreme couponing, dating sites – she hits them all, and while this is a good starting point, many of these issues are far more complicated than this book would have you believe. That doesn’t matter, though, because sometimes a simple understanding is more than enough to give you solid ground to stand on.
Freakonomics took relatively simple ideas and problems and showed how complex they were. Ec•o•nom•ics takes complex issues and shows how simple they can be. The two books, while vastly different, complement each other quite well. There is still much for Kelly to uncover, however, and it makes me wonder if she is working on a new volume.
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