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For anybody who has ever thought Shakespeare dull or dry, this book is perfect reading!  It gives a brief introduction to Shakespeare’s life and work, and provides a short synopsis of all of his plays.  It also provides other interesting information such as words that Shakespeare created (assassination, luggage, moonbeam, cater – to name very few of a long list!) and phrases that he coined – if you’ve ever thought of jealousy as a green-eyed-monster for instance, then you have Shakespeare to thank!  It also provides a list of all of the main characters in Shakespeare’s plays, and a brief description of their roles.

The book is written in a clear, easy to understand, and often amusing fashion, and even for someone who is not particularly bothered about Shakespeare, it still makes for interesting reading!

As an academic book, I probably would not recommend this – it is really only the briefest introduction to The Bard’s life and work, but if you have ever seen a film adaptation of one of his plays and would like to learn more, this would be a great place to start.  It is only a short book – I read it in two sittings, but it could easily be started and finished in a couple of hours.  So while it may not cover it’s subject in great depth, it certainly opens the door to learning more about Shakespeare, and left me wanting to know more.  Definitely recommended!

(Author’s blog can be found here.)

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A collaboration between a Chicago economist (Levitt) and a New York journalist (Dubner) this book takes the subject of economics, and doesn’t so much turn it on its head, as tilt it to see things from a different angle.

They ask such questions as What caused the crime rate to fall dramatically in the 1990s?  What do Sumo Wrestlers and Schoolteachers have in common?  How much does a child’s name matter?  They then attempt to answer such questions with a combination of empirical research and statistics.  The book often disputes conventional wisdom and explains things from a different angle.

The narration is lively and fun to read.  The subjects covered are all interesting and certainly make the reader think.  It doesn’t always go hugely indepth, but it definitely provides enough to make someone want to go and find out more.  It also encourages the reader to ask more questions and perhaps not always accept the first and most obvious answer to questions.

Most importantly, it’s fun to read, and never patronising, and if it causes interest in subjects which previously a reader may have thought boring or too complicated, that can only be a good thing.

I would certainly recommend this book, and look forward to reading the follow up, Super-Freakonomics’.

(Authors’ website can be found here.)

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