Our Daily Bleg: Book-Club Questions Needed

A reader named Jacquilynne Schlesier writes:

My book club is reading Freakonomics as our selection of the month and we’re meeting on Wednesday. It’s my selection, so I’m responsible for bringing 10 questions that’ll prompt discussion about the book.

Based on the argument that broke out at our last meeting when I merely mentioned the idea behind the abortion/crime bits of the book, I don’t imagine I will actually need 10 questions to keep the discussion moving for two hours (more likely, I will need a very large whip to keep the members from maiming each other), but still, I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask the readers of Freakonomics if they have any discussion questions they’d use to prompt conversation about the book.

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  1. Diana says:

    Last year when my book club discussed this book, the questions we used were ones that we googled. They were a pretty good way to start the discussion and then it went from there.

    This is the site we got our questions from:

    Then again, it was the first time our group had participated in a book club, so we really didn’t know what we were doing back then.

    Hope this helps and that everyone survives at your get together.

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  2. C. Larity says:

    I would ask them who among them will be the first to name their child Loser. So far, the name is 1-for-1 in terms of successful outcomes.

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  3. Brooke says:

    I’m betting that at least some of the members of your book club are parents. Why not ask them what they thought about the parenting portion of the book? Do they agree with the book’s assertions or disagree with them? Are they open to the possibility that these assertions might be true, even though the implications could be hurtful?

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  4. Kyle says:

    Why not try the Student Guide to Freakonomics (.pdf) that this blog discussed last year?


    That may have some helpful material.

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  5. Kimota94 says:

    Regarding the parenting section of the book (and allowing for the fact that the abortion/crime rate portion is even more incendiary), perhaps ask the group to discuss whether the book’s focus on scholastic results (and what effect parents have on them) resonated with them or not? I know that I found that part fascinating, but at the end of it, I thought, “But wait a minute! As a parent, do I really place that much importance on little Bobo’s marks when thinking about my own contributions? My value as a parent is in so many other areas that these results don’t speak to me all that much.” But that’s just me.

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  6. jimmyc says:

    The chapter on cheating comes to mind. Ask how many people identify with the sumo wrestlers and/or teachers for cheating their way to job security.

    For the abortion/crime chapter, assume that the link is causal. What would happen in 20 years, if Roe V Wade was overturned? Could the same people tolerate a rise in rampant crime?

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  7. Derick says:

    I would ask “what other decisions and issues of life could you apply the Freakonomics-style practical/entertaining/intellectual integration type of thought to in order to get a better understanding and better results?”


    “What policies should the government alter in regard to the studies and methods revealed in Freakonomics?”

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  8. Michael Connolly says:

    Here is the question I would ask:
    Regarding the chapter on abortion and crime, how does your belief about the status of a fetus affect your interpretation of the data. As far as I can tell, one’s position on the moral status of abortion usually exerts a strong influence on how persuasive one will find Levitt’s data. But, of course, the relationship between crime trends and abortion trends is irrelevant to the question of whether a fetus is a human life (as Levitt points out in the book). If we as readers cannot disentangle the moral question about abortion from the empirical question about the robustness of data, what does that tell us about our other beliefs? Are we as open-minded as we think we are or do we tend to filter the facts, dismissing those we disagree with and latching on to those that are compatible with our world view?

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