While I found this book an interesting (and very fast read), I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take away from it. Sure, conventional wisdom is often wrong; I'm fine with that. I'm a pretty healthy skeptic, but I'm no economist. I think it's expecting too much that people will take to the databases after reading this book and expose all the hooey around them.
The overall tone of the book was too "Malcolm Gladwell" for me. Happily, Levitt has actual data (a fun surprise), something that sets him apart from Gladwell, who seems to rely only on anecdotes. I also appreciate Levitt's amoral approach to issues. He can take a clear look at data about touchy subjects, ignoring all the moral posturing that surround them. It's refreshing since not many people seem capable, or even willing, to do that.
For all that, I was supremely annoyed by the excerpts from a 2003 NY Times magazine article on Levitt that precede each chapter. Really? We need to read a fawning paragraph on how he's turned Harvard on its head or shocked pro-lifers with his no-nonsense data gathering before *every* chapter? I'm happy to give him his due, but this self-congratulatory stuff makes me ill. It takes the focus of the book off his genuinely interesting findings and puts him front and center. Maybe seeing how Malcolm Gladwell has cashed in on the "quirky intellectual" image, he's aiming to be the next pop science star. Honestly, if he'd left those out, I would have respected this book, and him, a lot more.