Think Like a Freak: Our New Book Out on May 13

Good news (for us at least): our new book is done! It’s called Think Like a Freak. It will be published on May 13; but you can pre-order now on, B&, iTunes, or any of your finer online bookshops.

Think Like a Freak is, like our two earlier books, a blend of storytelling and data. But Think has a slightly different mission than Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics. Here’s how we explain it in the first chapter:

The first two books were rarely prescriptive. For the most part, we simply used data to tell stories we found interesting, shining a light on parts of society that often lay in shadow. This book steps out of the shadows and tries to offer some advice that may occasionally be useful, whether you are interested in minor lifehacks or major global reforms.

Although we tell a million stories in Think,  the emphasis is usually on problem-solving:

It strikes us that in recent years, the idea has arisen that there is a “right” way to think about solving a given problem and of course a “wrong” way too. This inevitably leads to a lot of shouting—and, sadly, a lot of unsolved problems. Can this situation be improved upon? We hope so. We’d like to bury the idea that there’s a right way and a wrong way, a smart way and a foolish way, a red way and a blue way. The modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism. That we think like—ahem—a Freak.

Here, on the left, is how the book will look in the U.S. and Canada; on the right is the U.K. cover (yum!):

Book covers A

You can get the flavor of the book by checking out the Table of Contents, below. We can’t wait for you to read the book, and tell us what you think. On our “Upcoming Appearances” page, you can find the details of our U.S. and U.K. book tours (come say hello if we visit your city), as well as media appearances (like the AMA I’ll be doing on May 12). Once the book is out, we’ll start offering free signed bookplates so you can turn your standard-issue Think Like a Freak into an autographed edition. And keep your ear out for Freakonomics Radio episodes based on our favorite stories from Think, as well as a Think Like a Freak Book Club, in which Levitt and I will answer your questions about the book — and teach you, if you’re willing, to think like a Freak.

Think Like a Freak Table of Contents

1. What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?

An endless supply of fascinating questions . . . The pros and cons of breast-feeding, fracking, and virtual currencies . . . There is no magic Freakonomics tool . . . Easy problems evaporate; it is the hard ones that linger . . . How to win the World Cup . . . Private benefits vs. the greater good . . . Thinking with a different set of muscles . . . Are married people happy or do happy people marry? . . . Get famous by thinking just once or twice a week . . . Our disastrous meeting with the future prime minister.

2. The Three Hardest Words in the English Language

Why is “I don’t know” so hard to say? . . . Sure, kids make up answers but why do we? . . . Who believes in the devil? . . . And who believes 9/11 was an inside job? . . . “Entrepreneurs of error” . . . Why measuring cause-and-effect is so hard . . . The folly of prediction . . . Are your predictions better than a dart-throwing chimp? . . . The Internet’s economic impact will be “no greater than the fax machine’s” . . . “Ultracrepidarianism” . . . The cost of pretending to know more than you do . . . How should bad predictions be punished? . . . The Romanian witch hunt . . . The first step in solving problems: put away your moral compass . . . Why suicide rises with quality of life— and how little we know about suicide . . . Feedback is the key to all learning . . . How bad were the first loaves of bread? . . . Don’t leave experimentation to the scientists . . . Does more expensive wine taste better?

3. What’s Your Problem?

If you ask the wrong question, you’ll surely get the wrong answer . . . What does “school reform” really mean? . . . Why do American kids know less than kids from Estonia? . . . Maybe it’s the parents’ fault! . . . The amazing true story of Takeru Kobayashi, hot-dog-eating champion . . . Fifty hot dogs in twelve minutes! . . . So how did he do it? . . . And why was he so much better than everyone else? . . . “To eat quickly is not very good manners” . . . “The Solomon Method” . . . Endless experimentation in pursuit of excellence . . . Arrested! . . . How to redefine the problem you are trying to solve . . . The brain is the critical organ . . . How to ignore artificial barriers . . . Can you do 20 push-ups?

4. Like a Bad Dye Job, the Truth Is in the Roots

Why a bucket of cash will not cure poverty and a planeload of food will not cure famine . . . How to find the root cause of a problem . . . Revisiting the abortion-crime link . . . What does Martin Luther have to do with the German economy? . . . How the “Scramble for Africa” created lasting strife . . . Why did slave traders lick the skin of the slaves they bought? . . . Medicine vs. folklore . . . Consider the ulcer . . . The first blockbuster drugs . . . Why did the young doctor swallow a batch of dangerous bacteria? . . . Talk about gastric upset! . . . The universe that lives in our gut . . . The power of poop.

5. Think Like a Child

How to have good ideas . . . The power of thinking small . . . Smarter kids at $15 a pop . . . Don’t be afraid of the obvious . . . 1.6 million of anything is a lot . . . Don’t be seduced by complexity . . . What to look for in a junkyard . . . The human body is just a machine . . . Freaks just want to have fun . . . It is hard to get good at something you don’t like . . . Is a “no-lose lottery” the answer to our low savings rate? . . . Gambling meets charity . . . Why kids figure out magic tricks better than adults . . . “You’d think scientists would be hard to dupe” . . . How to smuggle childlike instincts across the adult border.

6. Like Giving Candy to a Baby

It’s the incentives, stupid! . . . A girl, a bag of candy, and a toilet . . . What financial incentives can and can’t do . . . The giant milk necklace . . . Cash for grades . . . With financial incentives, size matters . . . How to determine someone’s true incentives . . . Riding the herd mentality . . . Why are moral incentives so weak? . . . Let’s steal some petrified wood! . . . One of the most radical ideas in the history of philanthropy . . . “The most dysfunctional $300 billion industry in the world” . . . A one-night stand for charitable donors . . . How to change the frame of a relationship . . . Ping-Pong diplomacy and selling shoes . . . “You guys are just the best!” . . . The customer is a human wallet . . . When incentives backfire . . . The “cobra effect” . . . Why treating people with decency is a good idea.

7. What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have in Common?

A pair of nice, Jewish, game-theory-loving boys . . . “Fetch me a sword!” . . . What the brown M&M’s were really about . . . Teach your garden to weed itself . . . Did medieval “ordeals” of boiling water really work? . . . You too can play God once in a while . . . Why are college applications so much longer than job applications? . . . Zappos and “The Offer” . . . The secret bullet factory’s warm-beer alarm . . . Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria? . . . The cost of false alarms and other false positives . . . Will all the gullible people please come forward? . . . How to trick a terrorist into letting you know he’s a terrorist.

8. How to Persuade People Who Don’t Want to Be Persuaded

First, understand how hard this will be . . . Why are better-educated people more extremist? . . . Logic and fact are no match for ideology . . . The consumer has the only vote that counts . . . Don’t pretend your argument is perfect . . . How many lives would a driverless car save? . . . Keep the insults to yourself . . . Why you should tell stories . . . Is eating fat really so bad? . . . The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure . . . What is the Bible “about”? . . . The Ten Commandments versus The Brady Bunch.

9. The Upside of Quitting

Winston Churchill was right—and wrong . . . The sunk cost fallacy and opportunity cost . . . You can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you won’t abandon today’s dud . . . Celebrating failure with a party and cake . . . Why the flagship Chinese store did not open on time . . . Were the Challenger’s O-rings bound to fail? . . . Learn how you might fail without going to the trouble of failing . . . The $1 million question: “when to struggle and when to quit” . . . Would you let a coin toss decide your future? . . . “Should I quit the Mormon faith?” . . . Growing a beard will not make you happy . . . But ditching your girlfriend might . . . Why Dubner and Levitt are so fond of quitting . . . This whole book was about “letting go” . . . And now it’s your turn.


I, too, am excited to have another book to read, and the table of contents looks great. And allows me the perfect time to ask this question:

What is up with the physical book vs ebook pricing? I am guessing that the profit on each book sold is way LESS than 15.29. Plus there is nothing to be remaindered. From habit I prefer physical books to ebooks, but will always purchase the ebook if 7.00 or less, and a small but significant percentage of my favorite authors, most of whom are very popular, price their Kindle editions at this level.

What is the rationale behind pricing that produces a much greater profit on the form of the book that has minimal added costs compared to the physical form?


Also I like signed copies. Will your book tour include Baltimore? If not, is there a bookstore you work with that will be selling these me to buy and you to sign?

Also, to everyone, I recommend David Hand's new book: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day

Caitlin Bestler

Why would anyone who aspires to "think like a freak" pre-order an ebook?

I think we can predict that neither Amazon or Barnes&Noble will lack the bandwidth to deliver your ebook on an on-demand basis when it is available. With a game, being able to pre-download the multiple DVD sized game image ahead of time can be valuable. But an ebook?

Erica Ambrosio

Can't wait to read the new book. Hope I can find it soon here in Brazil. I think I'm going to pre-order the e-book format.

Hairui Su

Just pre ordered from Amazon, this is gonna be awesome!


I live in Europe, Geneva. And I would have loved to come to the book presentation session in London, but it is already full. Any chances that you could extend your European Tour?


You can't come all the way to the UK and just do two shows! We need more! Please!


Is there any substantive difference between the US and UK versions? According to iBooks the US version has 288 pages and the UK version 256 - is it just down to the omission of the Euro polemic?

Laura Bolte

Will there be an immediate release of this in audiobook form on iTunes?


It says that once the book is out it is possible to get a signed bookplate. How would I go about doing that?


When will the bookplate signing form be up? I want both of your names on a piece of paper! I wonder why that's such a commonplace thing. To want a celebrity's name on a piece of paper...

Vedang Narain

When will the book be out in India?


I am even more curious to read the book now that I saw that "should I leave the Mormon faith?" is covered. I left two years ago. I recall your podcast on the power of quitting being very timely. It did not change my mind one way or the other, but did give me reassurance that sometimes quitting can work out for the best. It was one of the only podcast episodes that I have ever listened to twice. Thanks for the informative work.


Is there a way to purchase DRM-free ebook or audio book?

Don Hudson

Can't wait for the book, but your new book isn't really "out" on May 13. Out would imply available rather than whatever it means when you say it. Out means available and it won't be until June. I have a flight to UK in a few days and was hoping to read it on the way to a global meeting and look brilliant by utilizing your unique viewpoints, but am quite disappointed that it's not available.


I tried buying the audio book on audible and was told the content was not available in my country of residence... :(
Any chance you can sell the audio book on this website? BtW, I live in Australia.