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It began when New York journalist and author Stephen J. Dubner went to Chicago to write about award-winning economist Steven D. Levitt for The New York Times Magazine. Dubner had been reluctant to take the assignment (he was in the middle of writing a book about the psychology of money). Levitt was reluctant to be shadowed by a journalist (but his mother loved the Times Magazine, so he gave in).
The article came out, and led to an unexpected partnership. Levitt and Dubner wrote Freakonomics, a book about cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing Realtors, and crack-selling mama's boys. They figured it would sell about 80 copies. Instead, it took up long-term residency on the Times best-seller list, and went on to sell more than 5 million copies in 40 languages. Then they wrote SuperFreakonomics. It too became a worldwide best-seller. Together, the books have sold 7 million copies worldwide.
A lot of other stuff happened, too. A blog. A documentary film. Jon Stewart and Beauty and the Geek! Lectures. A pair of pants. A radio show. Not bad for a partnership born of such profound reluctance. In 2014, Levitt and Dubner published their third book, Think Like a Freak — a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems. Dubner and Levitt's latest book, When to Rob a Bank, is a curated collection of blog posts from Freakonomics.com, which has been called “the most readable economics blog in the universe” (which, frankly, isn't saying much.
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