Yes, I enjoy predictably irrational long tail freakonomics.
August 20, 2008 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Recommend some works similar to The Long Tail, Predictably Irrational, and Freakonomics.

Within the past year I have read all three of these books and I absolutely loved them. I personally saw a common thread among them that really intrigued me, and I'm looking for more of the same.

I really like how they take on the common perceptions of how aspects of our world work and flip them on their heads, and expose the psychology and the underbelly of whole mindsets. I guess I'm looking for things that challenge the popular way of thinking and reveal possibilities about how stuff works that most people haven't thought about. If you've read any or all of these books, you'll understand what I'm talking about

I already have Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson, which I think will go along with this theme somewhat as well. So, AskMeFi, throw out some recommendations. Any books, articles, or similar are appreciated. Audiobooks (or podcasts or whatever) would be particularly awesome, because I have a moderately long commute that I like to use wisely.
posted by joshrholloway to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb is along those lines. It was discussed on Metafilter.
posted by jedicus at 2:32 PM on August 20, 2008

I would think Blink and The Tipping Point (both by Malcolm Gladwell) would be up your alley. Both (I'm almost positive) have audiobook versions.
posted by inigo2 at 2:34 PM on August 20, 2008

Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen
Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Taleb — in my very personal opinion even better than the Black Swan
Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:41 PM on August 20, 2008

Having read most of the books listed (by you and what's already been answered,) I think an interesting, although somewhat different angle can be found in Mobs, Messiahs and Markets. While it purports to be only about markets, it presents an interesting, if one-tracked, view of a wide variety of things.

Also, if you really loves Freakonomics, I imagine you'll love their blog, where they do more of the same, although rarely with the same level of research as the book.

From their blog, they occasionally link to similar blogs, which may be worth a read.
posted by mhz at 2:44 PM on August 20, 2008

Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel by Julia Keller
Connections, by James Burke

More historical, scientific than about markets and money, but still fun and thought provoking reads about unintended consequences.
posted by nax at 2:52 PM on August 20, 2008

Yeah... the Black Swan was kinda that book for me. A little pretentious at parts, but overall, a fascinating read.
posted by ph00dz at 3:14 PM on August 20, 2008

Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.
posted by No-sword at 3:19 PM on August 20, 2008

Do you already listen to Radiolab ? They have a pretty great podcast. You have some time to catch up on their archives.
posted by knile at 3:31 PM on August 20, 2008

Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill. And The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.
They have that same quality you're looking for, although don't focus so much on conscious human actions. If you want to stay with that focus, then perhaps The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley.
posted by K.P. at 3:55 PM on August 20, 2008

The most uncomfortable pop-psychology/decision-making book I've ever read was Mistakes Were Made.
posted by milkrate at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sway: The The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior.

I don't know how it compares with Predictably Irrational. I'm only a few pages in.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:02 PM on August 20, 2008


When I searched for it on amazon, Predictably Irrational came up too, so that's a good sign.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:17 PM on August 20, 2008

This probably isn't *exactly* what you're looking for, but if you liked Freakonomics you might like Gang Leader for a Day. The chapter on gang finances in Freakonomics was based on the research of this guy. It is very well written and one of the better non-fiction books I've read recently. So while it doesn't necessarily have all the perception flipping you're looking for, if you'd like to "extend" your Freakonomics experience this might be one way to go.
posted by awegz at 5:18 PM on August 20, 2008

This may seem like an offbeat suggestion, but check out Moneyball. It's topic is baseball, but it's actually about statistical analysis, questioning assumptions and radical out-of-the-box thinking. I'm not remotely a baseball fan (though I enjoy sports), and found the book totally fascinating for its Gladwellesque. Also, Michael Lewis's writing style is brisk and rich with original metaphors.
posted by dbarefoot at 5:33 PM on August 20, 2008

Both Robert H. Frank (econ professor) and Robert Frank (WSJ writer - disambiguation) write great economics books.

Robert H. Frank
The Economic Naturalist
Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class
The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us
Luxury Fever: Money and Happiness in an Era of Excess

Robert Frank
Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich

Very pop economics - RHF's Economic Naturalist in particular is Freakonomics-ish, and published recently (I have this vision of every economics professor's publisher coming to them with a request for one of "those books").
posted by clerestory at 6:24 PM on August 20, 2008

I am currently reading "A Farewell to Alms" by Gregory Clark. I think it might have just came out. Very, very enjoyable. It gets surprisingly technical at times, but don't be intimidated.
posted by geoff. at 7:49 PM on August 20, 2008

Seconding the podcast of Radiolab. Also...

The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki
Emergence, by Steven Johnson
Nonzero, by Robert Wright

It's not as directed at the general audience as the others, but At Home in the Universe, by Stuart Kauffman, totally rewired much of my perception.

Might be stretching your specific request for perception tweaking, but I think I get what you're talking about, and these books occupy similar brainspace for me. Enjoy.
posted by sapere aude at 11:10 PM on August 20, 2008

The Armchair Economist
posted by lunchbox at 12:52 AM on August 21, 2008

Seconding Blink, Tipping Point and especially Guns, Germs and Steel. I have to throw in a non-recommendation for Black Swan; I found it massively over-written compared to the others that have been mentioned.
posted by primer_dimer at 3:10 AM on August 21, 2008

N-thing Guns Germs and Steel, Tipping Point, and The Selfish Gene.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:04 AM on August 21, 2008

The Undercover Economist is similar, and enjoyable.

My sense of 'the way the world works' was expanded by Economics: A Very Short Introduction. The title is somewhat misleading; rather than a dry overview of economic principles, the book applies economic concepts to explore inequalities in the world -- a little like Guns, Germs, and Steel. It's not as easy of a read as the bestsellers already mentioned, but I think it's worth checking out.
posted by alb at 6:37 AM on August 21, 2008

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" is a bit stronger than Predictably Irrational.

The Halo Effect is a great debunking of all those business management books like Good to Great.
posted by jefftang at 7:52 AM on August 21, 2008

My girlfriend recommends The Tiger That Isn't: Seeing Through a World of Numbers.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:56 PM on August 21, 2008

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