Archive for December 19th, 2009

Aught Lang Syne: The Rise of Popular Economics

One clear development in nonfiction during the Aughts has been the rise of popular economics. Popular economics nonfiction existed before this decade, but the genre proliferated in 2005 with the wild success of Freakonomics. Discover Your Inner Economist, More Sex is Safer Sex, Predictably Irrational, The Economic Naturalist, and SuperFreakonomics among others followed.

What is popular economics? Well, this nonfiction is popular in the sense that it’s written in a way that any moderately intelligent person could understand the material without any previous exposure to economics. While none of the authors of these books have writing skills as superb as Malcolm Gladwell’s or Michael Lewis’, several of the authors employ quite deft prose. Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics were co-written by a journalist, Stephen Dubner, which explains why they’re the best of the bunch in terms of writing style. Their focus on anecdotes to tease out concepts and findings is a method used to some degree by all of the authors to make their books accessible. But, perhaps the best part of their writing is their explication of their findings. For instance, they explain why the correlation between blacker names and lower income is not causal:
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