Review: Sophie's World

Author: Jostein Gaardner
Date of Publication: 1991 (whoa!)
Pages: 403
Source: Borrowed

A page-turning novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, Sophie’s World has fired the imagination of readers all over the world, with more than twenty million copies in print.

One day fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find in her mailbox two notes, with one question on each: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” From that irresistible beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with questions that take her far beyond what she knows of her Norwegian village. Through those letters, she enrolls in a kind of correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre, with a mysterious philosopher, while receiving letters addressed to another girl. Who is Hilde? And why does her mail keep turning up? To unravel this riddle, Sophie must use the philosophy she is learning—but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined.


It's fitting that I'm sitting here, inside, on a bench at the intersection of the mall and the bus stop, as I finish Sophie's World. I'm waiting for the eternally late Mari, and I've had a weird day and I will be having a weird weekend, and I am obviously in the perfect mood for such a book.

Sophie's World is another book I needed to read, even if it wasn't something I wanted to do. I've already written about how I'm a dreamer, and how I tend to over think. I also wrote already of my impressions of Sophie's World some hundred pages into it. I was bored. I was learning, but not that into it.

I wasn't entertained. But, I think that the things I learned in Sophie's World are exactly what I needed to know. I want to know about the world. People and humanity fascinate me. Sophie's World may have proclaimed itself to be a book about the history of philosophy, but while reading the book I realized that it's also the history of humanity. Sophie's World is about all the big ideas humans all throughout the ages have pondered and answered.

It covers science, math, space, psychology. Philosophy is important in every aspect of life, and its critical thinking skills have developed the society we know today. Sophie's World is so jam packed with knowledge that I know I probably didn't absorb even a third of it all, except now I can say I have a better general knowledge of the world.

Sophie's World is a great introduction to philosophy because it simplifies everything and explains it in clear terms. A few pages are spent describing each major philosopher and their major ideas, and it's really a sampling of history. The main ideas are presented and thoughtful, but I think what was also cool was that it gives a basis if you're more interested in certain ideas. Personally, I find Epicurus, Kant, and Sartre's ideas fascinating, as well as the scientific bits about the universe and the political parts about the fundamental flaw of capitalism.

I know this book is a bestseller and what I don't understand is why we're not reading Sophie's World in school. I learned more about the history of the world in Sophie's World than I ever did in history class. I even prefer this to my philosophy textbook (and class) because it's so compact and full of only the main ideas.

I guess the thing to remember when reading Sophie's World is to take it slow. Try to absorb it. Also, the ending is so strange and I don't even know what to think about it. I'm looking forward to talking to my accounting teacher, who recommended this book to me and see what he thought. Sophie's World is a great book to discuss, and I think it's worth a read for anyone looking to learn something from what they're reading, especially if you're looking for an intro to philosophy or general world history.



What do you think?