The Economic Naturalist by Robert H. Frank was a fairly easy read and interesting to me from the standpoint of economic ethnography. I don’t know much about economics in an academic sense, but after reading this book and reflecting it is obvious that I use it on a daily basis. In retrospect this makes sense because economics is a method of codifying everyday behavior.
Although the volume is slim it gets repetitive fairly quickly. Everything seems to boil down to opportunity costs, which could very well be correct, but is certainly boring. The premise is based on a method Dr. Frank used in his classes where he would have his students come up with an interesting question and observation about everyday life and then explain it in economic terms. One question I was hoping for, but which wasn’t there is “Why do spammers continue to send out spam email when the emails no longer make any sense?” I could probably try to exercise the little knowledge I picked up from the book to answer this myself, but I’m feeling a bit lazy today.
The book also reminds me of the trivia books I’d read when I was little; The Quintessential Quiz Book, How Did They Do That?, Why Did They Do That?, et cetera. Although, as a point in Frank’s favor, it did manage to teach a bit of actual methodology in addition to the straight fact-laying. It is a good book for light reading, or toilet-sitting, many of the questions and answers are brief, so the book can be read in small doses.