SuperFreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.
I knew I was in trouble with this book during the first chapter, which is on prostitution, the glories thereof. (At least for white women.) They reviewed a single study and talked to two prostitutes, one a street walker and the other a higher-priced prostitute, and came to the conclusion that, even though the study and the streetwalker suggested no such thing, prostitution is really pretty awesome for the ladies! As long as they like sex! They finish up the chapter in oh-gee bewilderment that more women aren't out there getting this awesome, terrific job of prostitution, which pays so well and has such keen hours and all. Women must be really dumb! Or hate sex!
But, okay, here's the thing: I am not an economist, and I can still read the statistics here. Women aren't actually dumb, and I can offer approximately nine billion data points on that one - research! Empirical evidence! Anecdotal evidence! A cluebat! And I can't put my finger on any research supporting it right now, but I can tell you that many women do in fact like sex. I happen to like it myself, for example, since we're willing to accept anecdotal evidence now, what with that lone happy hooker standing in for all women everywhere. In fact, let me take several steps up in rigor from SuperFreakonomics and do a poll on this one:
I am a woman and I like sex.
I am a woman and am totally not a fan of sex.
Not a woman but still fond of sex.
Not a woman and not into that whole sex thing.
I am a woman and I'm smart!
I am a woman and I am not at all smart.
Not a woman but still smart!
Not a woman and not at all smart.
And yet so many of these smart, sex-loving women aren't prostitutes. Huh. If I were the authors of SuperFreakonomics, I would stop there, but, um, wouldn't it make more sense to say, hey, according to what we think, something should be happening, but it isn't happening in reality, so maybe there's a factor we're missing? Some reason why women don't want to be prostitutes? Maybe, instead of just talking to two prostitutes, one of whom enjoys the work, and calling it science, we should talk to some other people! Like, other women! Non-prostitutes!
I understand both authors are married. They could start by asking their wives why they never pursued this incredible job opportunity. Or, hey! They could ask me.
In high school, I did everything stupid it was possible to do, almost. I did loads of drugs and had lots of the kind of promiscuous sex where I didn't actually know the name of the guy(s) involved and I hung out in dangerous places and I drove like a moron and I broke many many laws and hung out with hallucinating people who were armed - wow, seriously, name the bad choice, I can point you to the place where I did it.
But here's the thing: I used to walk along streets in a rather unsafe and unsavory district of town, late at night. (Yet another bad choice!) And men used to pull their cars over and offer me money or drugs if I would have sex with them - hundreds of dollars, usually, and once more than a thousand (although, to be fair, that was for me and the male friend I was walking with at the time). I was young enough that those seemed like incredible, phenomenal sums of money. And I was having sex with everyone voluntarily anyway - anyone who asked and didn't offer me money was in, basically. I was cheerfully flexible about what I'd do - oral, anal, vaginal, manual, kink, whatever. And I was the queen of bad decisions. And I liked breaking rules. And laws.
I said no. Every time, without hesitation. It was the only sex I said no to at that time in my life. So, hey, authors of SuperFreakonomics, maybe you should come interview me! I can tell you exactly why I didn't take up that fabulous opportunity, and you'll have a chapter for your next book, since you claim to be statisticians but keep acting like a single interview actually produces data.
And that is not the only problem, mind you. That's the first chapter. I could continue, but mostly, my issues are: it's wandering and poorly written, it's not especially interesting, it's not even remotely scientifically accurate, and in a lot of places, it's so stupid you start looking around for the hidden camera.
Book I Actually Like:
The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex.
I spent the last year trying to get people to read this book. "It's awesome!" I would say in that intense, slightly terrifying tone people get when they're trying to shove a book or a religion or a coupon for half-off a show on you. "You should read it! Because it is SO AWESOME!"
In general, people nodded and smiled and continued not to read it. And it's not that I blame them - I had the book for about six months before I actually read it, possibly because Smekday sounds like an unfortunate genital disease - it's just that I want to weep for them. This book is so incredibly good, and everyone should read it, and yet I don't see huge True Meaning of Smekday Appreciation Clubs forming all over the English-speaking world. It's a puzzlement.
So, here's a partial list of those who will enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday. Simply check any that apply to you.
Whoooooo are you?
A young adult.
Fond of laughter.
Fond of graphic novels.
Fond of science fiction.
Long wanted to read a book about an alien named J. Lo.
A fan of tentacles.
A fan of bubbles.
Wrote a dissertation on the interstate highway system.
Really hate the interstate highway system.
Fond of cats.
Allergic to cats.
Concerned about cloning.
Enjoy a good road trip.
Enjoy a bad road trip.
Enjoy stories about road trips.
Still dream of the day I get my first flying car.
An extreme weather fan.
Left-handed fan of musical theater.
If you didn't tick any boxes, fine, you're excused. Otherwise, I'm going to keep bringing this up and bringing this up, and I can be really difficult about these things. (I like to pretend that it's like that one song, Whatever Lola Wants, except if it was about a recommender instead of, you know, Lola. I keep telling myself that I'm nothing at all like that one relative who keeps insisting that you should really try the casserole, you'll love it, NO REALLY. Or like the guy standing on the table in the park explaining about how the government is controlling is brain with space lasers. I - I try not to think about those people too much.)
Oh, and if you're one of the people with whom I have had the "Where are all the female characters in SF?" and "Where are all the characters of color in SF?" discussions, READ THIS BOOK. The main character is female, mixed race, and totally and completely awesome. Plus, you will really enjoy the commentary on colonialism.