Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Date of Publication: 1994

Synopsis: “This long, dense novel, a bestseller in the author’s native Norway, offers a summary history of philosophy embedded in a philosophical mystery disguised as a children’s book. Sophie Amundsen is about to turn 15 when she receives a letter from one Alberto Knox, a philosopher who undertakes to educate her in his craft. Sections in which we read the text of Knox’s lessons to Sophie about the pre-Socratics, Plato and St. Augustine alternate with those in which we find out about Sophie’s life with her well-meaning mother. Soon, though, Sophie begins receiving other, stranger missives addressed to one Hilde Moller Knag from her absent father, Albert. As Alberto Knox’s lessons approach this century, he and Sophie come to suspect that they are merely characters in a novel written by Albert for his daughter. Teacher and pupil hatch a plot to understand and possibly escape from their situation; and from there, matters get only weirder.” -Publishers Weekly

Review: This book was recommended reading by my 12th grade Humanities teacher, who asked the entire class to read it the summer before school started. I duly purchased it, but couldn’t get past the long section on Plato, and put it aside for possible future reading. I picked it up again about two years later, and for some reason, forced myself through the long, sometimes tedious lectures that Alberto gives Sophie and found an extremely compelling story underneath. I have since read it two more times, and each time I find myself more and more fascinated by the philosophical material and find myself now enjoying the stories of the great philosophers and thinkers in history. Although some may feel that this book is dry and dense, it really speaks to me, and should appeal to anyone who is interested in history, philosophy, or has ever asked themselves the questions, “Who am I?” and “Why is the world the way it is?”

Rating: 8.5/10

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