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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ready for some questions?
Sophie Amundsen is is a normal teeenage girl living with her mom in a small town. Her father works with the U.N. peacekeeping forces and is stationed in Lebanon. When Sophie is about to turn 15, she receives a small note in her mailbox. It has only one question in it: "Who are you?"
This event signals Sophie's first contact with Philosophy. And as days go by and her...
Published on May 13 2004 by Jorge F. M

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars baby philosophy
This is a history of western philosophy course disguised as a novel (or vice versa). The author covers a much broader range of philosophers and schools of thought than is possible to cover through any intro class, all while keeping the language simple enough for the beginner philosopher to grasp the concepts. The novel is much less intimidating than a textbook or...
Published on June 29 2004 by melia717


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3.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy text disguised as novel (2 1/2 stars)..., June 14 2004
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
Sophie's World has an interesting concept, but this philosophical read is not for everyone. I have some criticism of the book, but also some praise. I'll start with the criticism. This is really a philosophy text disguised as a novel. The characters are caricature at best. They're really just devices Gaarder uses to get his point across. The dialogue is not believable either. Another potential problem for certain readers is that the philosophy lessons contained in this book are, in the novel, aimed for a young audience, for the novel centers on a fifteen-year-old character. If you have studied philosophy at some point in your life, this will probably be far too simplistic for you.
However, there are various things I liked about this novel. Sophie's World is a great introduction to philosophy. Those who find philosophy intimidating will very likely enjoy this book. I think it's a wonderful introduction to philosophy because it is aimed at the fifteen-year-old character. Even if you have studied philosophy, this book will be thought provoking, if only because it makes you think about what you once studied. I think this would be a wonderful book for parents to read with their teenage children. It would certainly make for some excellent discussions. The true strength of this book is the material it covers. Philosophy is a fascinating subject and Sophie's World is the perfect choice for anyone who would like to gently ease themselves into that subject.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Weird hard to categorize book, Feb. 24 2004
By 
Gail Moore "avid reader" (vancouver canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
This book has two distinct parts, a very "dreamy" novel and a course in philosophy. It begins with Sophie Amundsen, a 15 year old girl in Norway in the late twentieth a century, receiving mail from a mysterious stranger, mail that turns out to be a course in philosophy.
I found the history of philosophy as presented here interesting, some of the philosophers named here were somewhat familiar to me and I learned more, I liked the author's way of making connections from one stream of thought to the next over the centuries. However when I came across anyone I know a great deal about such as Darwin or Freud, I found those sections of the book to be quite shallow and biased as well as to what was included. I would have liked to have seen him go further with the twentieth century, how could he think of leaving out Carl Jung in a book like this????
The novel part of the book was totally unappealing to me, it just became too ridiculous. Alice in Wonderland herself is a character, and the story seemed like wonderland to me something a mind under the influence of strong drugs might "dream" up. Like a book for children but too mature for children.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sophie's World Review, Jan. 24 2004
By 
Kaitlyn Olson (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder, brilliantly combines philosophy and the story of a curious teenage girl named Sophie, who opens up her mind to the vast world of philosophy around her. Gaarder explains theory in a way that makes the subject almost seem easy to understand, while covering the great philosophers such as Democritus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Darwin, Freud, and several other great world thinkers. At first, the book reads as a poor attempt at being a novel, when the author is actually using a fictional tale as an outlet to switch between past theories, and relate them to the present, Sophie's World.
The book mixes creativity with intellect to help the reader visualize each concept. For example, Democritus' theory that the Lego is "the most ingenious toy in the world," is explained using Sophie as a puppet who reads about this idea and pulls down her old legos from the top shelf. Not only does this explain the theory in depth, but the author finds a way to break philosophy down and apply each idea to our everyday lives.
Gaarder also uses imagery to explain how philosophy got started. The narrator of the "philosophy lessons" explains Plato and Socrates' ideas on the world through a video filmed in Athens. He walks the camera through the Acropolis, around temples, one being the great Parthenon, past the Dionysus Theatre, and through the ancient city. Through detailed description, the reader gets a clear image of the town where philosophy began, and is able to visualize the beauty of Athens and the great orators in the streets teaching and debating the philosophies of life.
Along with theory, the book covers history, which is a necessity in order to understand philosophy and the evolution of thought. Each chapter jumps from one philosopher to the next explaining how, when, and where each idea began. One interesting idea is "the collision between Greek Philosophy and the doctrine of Christian redemption" from the visit of the Pharisee Paul in Athens. Apparently, Paul came to the city and convinced the Athenian philosophers of Jesus' resurrection, which created a whole new perspective on things, and in a way, tied science and religion together. The Semites actually had a theory on history and how time works. Their theory was about this ongoing line (also known as history), created by god, that started at the creation of the world, and ended on what they called "Judgment Day," the day that god judges the living and the dead, the day that all evil is destroyed. With this theory in mind, the Semites spent thousands of years recording history and it was these historical roots that "constitute the very core of their holy scriptures."
By the time I finished this incredibly informative book, I had a great understanding of each philosopher and their theories on life, and felt quite comfortable with the ideas that Gaarder explains. Having read Sophie's World, I now know about certain ideas that I have always been curious about, but would have never taken the time to research in depth. As well as educating myself on others theories, I began to develop some ideas of my own. Furthermore, Jostein Gaarder's masterpiece not only interested me, but it provided the stable information needed to write an essay, and possibly the inspiration to becoming a philosopher myself.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Annoying, Jan. 22 2004
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
The concept of this book is fairly interesting. A teenage girl begins to receive letters from a stranger. He introduces her to philosophy in terms of a chronological study of the major philosophers from the Greeks to the likes of Sartre. As such, the book describes an easy approach to philosophy for a teenager and it presents itself also as such.
However, it all became too much for me. The whole thing is quite pedantic. Most readers of all ages will not be able to identify with the characters Hilde and Sophie very well. As such, the actual story (outside the notes on philosophy) is basically a backdrop and definitely reads as such. As for the notes, they may be regarded well by some but patronising by others. When the major thoughts of a philosophical school or personality are reduced to ten pages of pop-style explanations (which in itself isn't a bad way of presenting it), it requires excellent organisation to make the text both representative of the philosopher and interesting. Gaarder has done neither in my opinion.
A mildly useful read in terms of acquainting oneself with the major philosophers. There are many better texts for that purpose though.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Meta-Philosophy, Jan. 5 2004
By 
Earl Carrender (USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
Jostein Gaarder uses metafiction as a tool to emphasize the predominant questions of philosophy: Who are you? and Where do do you/we come from? Sophie Anundson receives mysterious letters from Alberto Knox ostensibly to teach her lessons in the history of philosophy. Interspersed with her lessons is the mystery of Hilde Moller Knag and her father who maintain a correspondance through the unwitting Sophie. The mystery of Hilde and her father's identity (and for that matter Sophie and Alberto's identity)is revealed at the time when Alberto is beginning his lecture on the Enlightenment (ha, ha). This is one of the annoying problems with the novel: it all reads like a high school philosophy coarse and, like most metafiction, is too involved in style and technique (not to mention the author's self-indulgance) to be bothered with insignificant matters like plot or character development. It is all excessively tedious and only remotely interesting. But the author raises very interesting questions, however simplistic his and obviously slanted his answers may be. For better metafiction read italo Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler." For a better rendition of the history of philosophy read: "A Short History of Philosophy" by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins. For a better book by Gaarder read "The Solitaire Mystery"
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good for teenagers, Sept. 22 2003
By 
Zvi M. Aranoff (Brooklyn, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
A cute, fairly clever novel that threads a story line and introductory philosophy lectures into a fat notebook.
I gave it 3 stars because as an introduction to philosophy it succeeds relatively well. It covers most of the key figures in Western Philosophy, and gives the gist of their ideas. It must be noted though, that the book misses some key figures, it virtually ignores Modern Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy, and it is superficial on many occasions. It is not a particularly thorough intro.
The style of presentation is just okay. Not dull but not engrossing. The summaries are presented in the form of long dialogues between Alberto and Sophie. I did not find those dialogues to be particularly stimulating - Alberto lectures and Sophie merely interjects pithily between lengthy paragraphs.
As a novel I would give it no more than 2 stars. The plot is weak, the writing pretty flat, linear, with little emotional impact and no character development or a central problem. We don't really care about the characters. What keeps it somewhat interesting as a novel, are the many clues Gaarder sprinkled throughout. They might get you curious to know how it all ends, although, frankly, that too could have been better. Had Gaarder been cleverer, he would have tied the ideas and clues all together, but he has not. The finale is not really the culmination of all the preceding ideas or clues, and that's very unsatisfying.
All in all, it's a good book to give to an intelligent teenager or young adult, as it might stimulate him or her to study philosophy. As an adult though, if you're new to the topic, you might want to read it for its novelty and for the ease of presentation. Then, you might want to turn to the real deal: Bertrand Russell's "A History of Western Philosophy", which is, undoubtedly, one of the finest introductions to the topic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder, Sept. 18 2003
By 
jt (California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
One of the best books I have ever read. Not a fiction, however if you want a book can be fun and enrich your life-get one immediately. This book is listed for teen-readers which can be a mislead. It can be a book for a talent teen 14 years or older to old guy older than me. I am a science major middle age person with a graduate degree. Like most people, I learned all the great names as general terms however never understand who they really are-like Plato, Aristotle, even common term like Materialism, Communism, etc. I tried to read philosophy books before and gave them up (most of them are boring and so hard to understand.) I had one philosophy class in college and could not even understand what the instructor wanted to say. This book brings you into a sea of philosophy knowledge with enough fiction to keep your interest. With all these, who cares that it may have a couple of faults on philosophy terms or it may skip a couple of important philosophers or the story parts is not perfect as some reviewers suggested. Please read this book even just for the purpose of showing off at lunch (I did it and they thought I was so knowledgeable:)) It can be one of the most important books you read in your life. A great book for a regular person without much philosophy.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Flaccid, Sept. 6 2003
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
Sophie's World, it would have best been not named a novel. Yes there is that aspect of novel to it, but it is so dilute and weak that it makes the fiction in this book unnecessary and redundant. Nonsensical, imprudent, and diaphanous fictional story line do nothing more than deface its value. The characters lack dimensionality and their personality and history are left in obscurity. The fictional story line is fragmented and disconnected. The ending is not only asinine but also obscene. The causes for the actions of the characters and why namely Sophie was chosen to learn the history of the philosopher is mysterious. Overall the fictional aspect is weak and lacking: unnecesarry.
Expanding on philosphy is , however, the strong attribute of this "novel". Although the information about the philosphers beliefs was vague and needed more depth, the implementation of the examples to facilitate the understanding of those beliefs was wonderful.
The reason for writing this book is puzzling. Perhaps it is a perfect guide to the philosophical thought for someone is in a hurry to be acquainted with it. Otherwise there are much more relevant works printed to provide much better information on the topic, to say nothing of the original works by the philosphers themselves. So, if expedient acquaintance with philosophy is what you want, this book I would somewhat recommend. And to Gaardener, my recommendation is to have written this book sans the fictional parallel.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy is great, but this presentation is not, Sept. 5 2003
By 
Christopher Culver (Cluj-Napoca, Romania or Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
SOPHIE'S WORLD is Josten Gaardner's bold attempt to get the paperback-reading public to become acquainted with the history of philosophy and to ask the big questions of all time. However, the novel is not a very successful book.
As the novel opens it acquaints us with Sophie Admunsen, a Norwegian teenager who will soon celebrate her 15th birthday. She begins to receive letters from a mysterious man named Alberto Knox, who leads her through the history of philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the modern day. Just over halfway through the novel Gaardner tries to shake things up with some drastic plot twists. But all of this has been done before. A large amount of the latter half of the book seems derivative of Michael Ende's children's classic THE NEVERENDING STORY. Towards the end of the book Gaardner then seems to realise that having spent time on so much plot he will have to greatly speed up the discussion of philosophy. Hundreds of pages consist of a monologue by Alberto, with Sophie throwing in single-line interjections: "I understand," "Right," "I would suppose so!"
Even as a philosophical tutorial, SOPHIE'S WORLD isn't especially helpful. His coverage of Spinoza is superficial. Most disappointing is the coverage of 20th century philosophy, in which important figures like Focault and Heidegger are missing.
I was also disappointed by the translation. Paulette Moller apparently has little knowledge of history because she makes several little mistakes ("Judea" for "Judah" for example). This caused me to doubt the reliability of the English rendering.
While perhaps a successful hybrid of a textbook and a novel could be written, SOPHIE'S WORLD is not it. If you are interested in philosophy, I'd recommend getting a simple textbook for beginners.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It would be a better textbook ..., July 8 2003
By 
eeeeffff (al-ba-ker-kee.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sophies World (Mass Market Paperback)
Three stars go to SOPHIE'S WORLD, mostly because as far as philosophy goes, it's a wonderful reference. It's very complete, (though I'd like more on Buddah and Nietzsche), and, although Alberto is often adressing the reader, (and Sophie), like a child, it is put into terms comprehensible for your average reader. If you want to be more worldly or at least familiar with various philosophers throughout history, this is the book for you; it gives the general idea of every major philosopher, relates them to each other and political events of the time, and offers specific quotes. As a textbook, this is your ultimate Philosophy In General.
This is a book that gets your brain moving. As you read the words of these various philsophers, you'll also start asking questions of your own. It's a good book to read slowly ... don't just read it, think about it.
But as a novel, I'd have to say that I didn't enjoy it nearly so much. The relationships between the character and the author do provide a unique twist, but this theme is highly overused. And it's not even overused in different ways, (I don't know how many times someone came knocking at Alberto's door). The last three chapters were very predictable -- I wasn't fascinated by the plot, I was annoyed with it. But ending on a positive note, I thought the notion that book characters live eternal lives, such as spirits, was a lovely one.
Immerse yourself in a general overview of philosophy with this book, but don't read it for the fantasy plot.
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Sophies World by Jostein Gaarder (Mass Market Paperback - Jan. 11 2002)
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