When to Rob a Bank: And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants

When to Rob a Bank: And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants




Why pay for a book of blog posts you can read for free?


When Freakonomics was initially published, the authors started a blog – and they’ve kept it up. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. Now, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the landmark Freakonomics, comes this curated collection from the most readable economics blog in the world.
Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken?
Over the past decade, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have published more than 8,000 blog posts on Freakonomics.com. Now the very best of this writing has been carefully curated into one volume, the perfect solution for the millions of listeners who love all things Freakonomics.
Discover why taller people tend to make more money; why it’s so hard to predict the Kentucky Derby winner; and why it might be time for a sex tax (if not a fat tax). You’ll also learn a great deal about Levitt and Dubner’s own quirks and passions. Surprising and erudite, eloquent and witty, When to Rob a Bank demonstrates the brilliance that has made their books an international sensation.
©2015 Steven D. Levitt and Dubner Productions, LLC (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers


Anyone who is already familiar with the topics covered in books like ‘Freakonomics’, ‘Superfreakonomics’ and ‘Think Like a Freak’ will know what to expect in this volume. If you’ve never read any of those books, I would suggest you do so before reading this one.
‘When to Rob a Bank’ is yet another look at the power of incentive and how it impacts the world around us. The book is as thought provoking as ever and is not afraid to argue some positions that will seem very unpopular to a lot of people. If you happen to think it would be a good idea to pay politicians more money, then you will probably enjoy ‘When to Rob a Bank’. The same is true if you think the tenure system should come to an end.
This is easily the most diverse book in the ‘Freakonomics’ series when it comes to the number of subjects discussed. Everything from politics and education to sports and food is examined in some way. The authors also revisit subjects covered in the other books including terrorism. One of my favorites was a post concerning people who happen to have names that are appropriate for their profession such as Page Worthy, the magazine fact checker.
This is also a more personal book than the prior works. You can read about Levitt buying a car, an embarrassing mishap in Las Vegas, and most memorably the death of Levitt’s sister. Dubner’s post on why people should root for the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly caused me to dock a full point from the book’s final score, but I’ve decided to be magnanimous and recognize it as a necessary evil.
If you read ‘When to Rob a Bank’ you might not come away with a surefire way to predict the winner of the Kentucky Derby or be any more certain of the best day to rob a bank, but you will probably find a few laughs, see a few things in a different light, and even learn how to save some money at the pharmacy.


As noted, this book is a compilation of posts from the Freakonomics blog, including some posts by guest contributors. I’m sort of new to the whole Freakonomics thing and so haven’t been reading their blog since the beginning, or really until now. So I can’t say definitively that these are the best posts they have to offer (I’m sure there had to be at least one better than Dubner’s 10 reasons to love the Steelers post,) but I’m inclined to take their word for it.


I like the structure for narration of this audiobook. Dubner narrates his posts, Levitt narrates his, Eric Bergmann narrates contributions from men, and Therese Plummer narrates contributions from women.
Dubner is as good as he always is as narrator of the Freakonomics books and podcast. Therese Plummer is heard the least on the track, and that is unfortunate as she makes the most of her performance. Bergmann is serviceable, not really standing out for good or bad.
Levitt is definitely the weakest of the four (which is both understandable and expected) but manages to provide the most memorable performance. Most of his performance is pretty ordinary with not a lot of inflection or emotion. However, that is not true when he reads about his sister’s bout with and death from cancer. If my memory of how this book was narrated fades over time, the one thing that won’t fade is Levitt’s reading of that section. It was profoundly moving.


This is a great track as usual. The sound level is consistent throughout, and there were no glitches to be heard. There is some funky music to open and close the book, and the audio chapter stops correspond with the actual chapters of the book.
However, there is one thing about the track that I found remarkable. During one entry, there are two instances of words being bleeped out. I’ve listened to many audiobooks in my day but have never come across an instance of words being bleeped. Not having a print copy of the book, I have no idea if the words would be redacted from that, but if they’re not, that makes this even more nonsensical.


In my review of ‘Think Like a Freak’, I wrote that any of the ‘Freakonomics’ books would work as a starting point into the work of Levitt and Dubner. I don’t feel that the same can be said about ‘When to Rob a Bank’. This makes sense because these are blog posts which tend to assume that blog readers already have a level of familiarity with their work. So ‘When to Rob a Bank’ is really meant for people who are already fans or people who become fans by reading the other books, discovering the blog some other way, or sample the podcast.
‘When to Rob a Bank’ is a worthwhile addition to the series. Why would you want to pay to read a bunch of posts you can already read for free? Well, for someone like myself, I don’t have the time to go back through more than 8,000 blog posts. So getting a sample of what the blog is all about was worth the money. I will probably become a more frequent reader of their blog now that I have read the book. So in that sense, it has definitely served a purpose.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt, Erik Bergmann, Therese Plummer Harper Audio Business & Economics 05/05/2015 8 hours, 13 minutes 8.5/10


A copy of ‘WHEN TO ROB A BANK: AND 131 MORE WARPED SUGGESTIONS AND WELL-INTENDED RANTS’ was purchased from Audible for review.