Book two: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

This was a much quicker read after Underworld. Freakonomics is subtitled "a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything". But those with an aversion to financial matters needn't be concerned, this book is not about the economics of stock markets and share dealing. Instead, starting from the basic principle that human behaviour is dependent on incentives, Levitt uses all the data he can get his hands on to analyse a range of unusual questions - why do drug dealers live with their mothers? why do some teachers help their students cheat on tests? And does your first name affect your chances of success in life?

Dubner is a journalist and it shows in the writing - the book reads like a series of punchy newspaper features. There's no real theme holding things together - other than Levitt's desire to analyse unexplored questions - but the authors happily acknowledge that.

It's a very quick read, lightweight but thought-provoking and very enjoyable.