First Words in Best-Selling Business Books: A Story About the Author

In a nutshell: Open with a story about why the author(s) wrote the business book.

Think Like a Freak uses this approach:

After writing Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, we started to hear from readers with all sorts of questions. Is a college degree still “worth it”? (Short Think Like a Freakanswer: yes; long answer: also yes.) Is it a good idea to pass along the family business to the next generation? (Sure, if your goal is to kill off the business—for the data show it’s generally better to bring in an outside manager.) What happened to the carpal tunnel syndrome epidemic? (Once journalists stopped getting it, they stopped writing about it—but the problem persists, especially among blue collar-workers.)

Some questions were existential: What makes people truly happy? Is income inequality as dangerous as it seems? Would a diet high in omega-3 lead to world peace?

…. rather than trying and probably failing to answer most of the questions sent our way, we wondered if it might be better to write a book that can teach anyone to think like a Freak.

Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security begins by recounting a conversation between the authors:

This book was born of a simple question—How old are Paul and his wife?

Larry and Paul were taking a break from what they call tennis, shooting the Get What's Yoursbreeze, since talking is easier than running after errant shots. Larry launched into a harangue, as he often does; this one was about Social Security’s impossible complexity. Paul was listening, as usual, with his skeptical journalist’s ear. Or, maybe, since it was Larry, just half-listening.

Then Larry asked, How old were Paul and his wife and when were they planning to take their Social Security benefits?

The story continues, with Paul explaining that he and his wife planned to wait until they were 70 years old and could each apply for maximum benefits. Larry suggests they do otherwise and launches into an explanation of the very confusing Social Security rules.

The Paul and Larry in the story are, of course, the same Paul and Larry who wrote this book.


Read more entries in the First Words in Best-Selling Business Books series.