Modern classic. Trains logic, rational thinking and rigid essay structure.
336 pages, ★★★★★
Freakonomics is a collection of humorous essays that use economics to explain real-life situations. Its overall message is that prejudice can be overcome by rational thinking.
I taught to students at a Beijing secondary school back in 2011, and they loved it. First, kids love reading about money. Second, it sates kids’ appetite for controversy: where else can you learn about abortion, drug dealers, racism and the KKK in one class? Finally, its highly logical structure allows you to lose concentration half-way through and still understand the rest of the book. Similar books (e.g. David Brooks’ The Social Animal and Neil Strauss’ The Game) also gripped them in a way that novels and fiction didn’t.
Freakonomics‘ only shortcoming is that it lacks an overarching narrative. You could read the chapters in reverse order and still get the same message! While it would be easy to teach just rational, logical non-fiction, schools should balance this book with ‘realistic fiction’ to develop character arc and story structure skills in their English curricula. ★★★★★