Business books: Think Like A Freak, The Reckoning

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BOOKS

Think Like A Freak
Levitt & Dubner (Penguin)
★★✩✩✩

In 2005, the double act of Steven D Levitt (economist) and Stephen J Dubner (writer) stumbled upon a new name for the old practice of thinking outside the box - Freakonomics.

People liked the catchy title and the idea they were ker-razy rather than simple spreadsheet jockeys and the book spawned a sequel, Superfreakonomics along with a range of podcasts, blogs, lectures and the like.

Now comes Think Like A Freak which entrenches the "newsletter for the jargonistas" vibe with a number of other interesting case studies of people looking at old questions in new ways. (Try saying "I don't know" for once; try quitting instead of soldiering on... that sort of thing).

This chunk of look-at-it-this-way is digestible, accessible and not without its edge if you sidestep the smirking delivery. (They laugh at the Brits for making the NHS free, for example, which is a valid point but a poor response.)

One senses that Steven/Stephen are busy piling up their money before the Freak spell is broken. Who would have thought it?

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The Reckoning
Jacob Soll (Allen Lane)
★★★✩✩

US Professor of history and accounting Jacob Soll puts his job on the page with a tour of the past as described by invoices, receipts and the revolutionary practice of double-entry book-keeping.

If thesis were a fictional character, it would be Forrest Gump - turning up in the background of pivotal moments in history and influencing the outcome.

It may be a stretch to suggest that rigorous record-keeping is the spine of political stability and progress but Soll's deep knowledge and meticulous research ensure that the role of accountant as unsung hero against the malign forces of debt and scandal is faithfully recorded.

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