My gut reaction to this life-changing book is "Where have you been all my life?" You will turn the pages with delight as Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner offer simple solutions to life's fathomless conundrums, like How To Persuade People Who Don't Want To Be Persuaded and Was Winston Churchill Right Or Wrong?
Following the duo's success with Freakonomics and Super-Freakonomics, Levitt and Dubner have dived in at the shallow end of society's taboos and produced a much-needed antidote to "common sense". Look elsewhere for answers to eternal mysteries like the meaning of life, this 268-page volume will help solve mundane, head-scratching enigmas like "Does Marriage Make You Happy?". Not necessarily, say the authors, people who are already happy tend to marry each other.
As a researcher put it: "If you're grumpy, who the hell wants to marry you?" Simple. In the same vein, "I love you" are supposedly the hardest words to say in the English language. Wrong, say Levitt and Dubner. "I don't know" are the actual villains, leading to obnoxious titles like "ultracrepidarianism" which is giving opinions on matters of which you are entirely ignorant. Doesn't that ring a few bells? They also encourage us to ditch our day-to-day moral compass because it can "convince you that all the answers are obvious (even when they are not), that there is a clear line between right and wrong (when there isn't); and, worst, that you already know everything you need to know about a subject so you stop trying to learn more". It is a breath of fresh air.
Demonising failure is another of society's quirks, often leading to horrific tragedy. In The Upside Of Quitting, the authors examine the 1986 space shuttle Challenger's fatal launch, the results of which must even today cause sleepless nights in the Kennedy Space Centre. On the eve of take-off, a dramatic temperature drop made a small rubber component vulnerable. The engineers said abort but Nasa, afraid of losing face, pressed the button. Challenger took off as scheduled and blew apart just 73 seconds later, killing everyone on board. The cause? The dodgy rubber component. Think Like A Child And Don't Be Afraid Of The Obvious is a pretty refreshing piece of advice. The authors reveal that children can see through a stage magician's tricks because they are dedicated to working out how the world works. The authors frequently call on the great thinkers for backing, like Isaac Newton who said: "'Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others." If, like me, you thoroughly enjoy calling a spade a spade, this book is written for you.