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Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
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Sophie's World (original 1991; edition 1996)

by Jostein Gaarder (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,926188177 (3.77)122
Member:aethercowboy
Title:Sophie's World
Authors:Jostein Gaarder (Author)
Info:Berkley (1996), Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library, GT3, Have read
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fiction, literature, metafiction, philosophy, prose, Norwegian

Work details

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder (1991)

  1. 50
    The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (Percevan)
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    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: As the main characters develop, they also uncover fascinating mysteries with philosophical/psychological significance. Very intellectual reads with twisted, intense plots!
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    The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor (GirlMisanthrope)
  4. 11
    Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (weeksj10)
    weeksj10: Their both lecture style novels which use fiction to present a variety of different thoughts and philosophies.
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    Det store eventyret om virkeligheten : en fantastisk fortelling om den nye fysikken by Jack Falao (Percevan)
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    Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: Both books contain letter correspondence, and they also both have supernatural/fantasy elements. Likable girls as the main characters.
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» See also 122 mentions

English (139)  Spanish (14)  Dutch (10)  French (5)  German (4)  Swedish (3)  Finnish (3)  Norwegian (2)  Portuguese (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (188)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
This is an intriguing and thought-provoking narrative, while also providing an introduction to philosophy. It's well-judged so that the reader doesn't feel like they're being educated. ( )
  Tselja | Jul 9, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Intro

I read this book when I took a philosophy class as an elective course back in college. Actually, I did not finish the book during that semester for some reason. I suppose it was thesis time. Anyway, I resumed my reading of it a few months after graduation.

I think this should be made a required reading in Philosophy 101 classes because it pretty much covers a lot of philosophies. I don’t know about most people, but I find philosophy an interesting subject of classroom conversation. So yes, I enjoyed my philosophy classes back in college.

In addition, this book makes philosophy less taxing. It makes the study of philosophy a bit easier than it normally is. It’s like Philosophy for Dummies, with some entertainment.

So what’s entertaining about it?

The Rhapsody

This is philosophy and fiction rolled into one. The philosophy part comes in the guise of letters sent to a girl named Sophie. Surprise! Philosophy, by the way, means love of wisdom. Anyway, the letters that she receives are philosophy lectures from a mysterious man named Albert. He is mysterious in the sense that he knows Sophie’s attempts to uncover his identity, like some omnipresent force watching her moves.

The letters are supposed to be gifts from Sophie’s father. Wisdom is a gift, as Sophie will realize along the way. The lectures begin with an introduction to philosophy, its history, and its various schools. Notable philosophers are also introduced every chapter or so.

As I mentioned, the philosophical musings in this book are not a burden because of the fiction part. It’s like a young adult mystery, if you ask me, with a little surprise in the end. I won’t spoil that for you. I have been a notorious spoiler, but this time, I wouldn’t do it.

There’s no point in spoiling because in the first place, I couldn’t remember the fiction part. Not that it’s not entertaining; I’m just more engrossed with the philosophy part. I remember Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, et al, but not the turn of events. That’s the good thing about this book. Even if the plot is forgotten, the philosophical lessons remain.

Which I think is the whole point. It’s important for people to try to understand their existence. Simple questions like who am I, what is life, what is my purpose, and others, are also the ones that are hardest to answer. The answers are not offered in the book. One has to provide his own answers to such, and a little help with philosophizing might just give us a nifty solution.

I think we are all philosophers because there’s a need for us to be wise. We cannot be wise overnight, however, but some overthinking every once in a while may just prove to be helpful in some of the more testing moments of our lives.

Final Notes

Thanks to this book, I discovered the philosophies of Soren Kierkegaard. He said that the only important truths are subjective truths, which is a principle that I have held on to even before I read this book. My reading of this book only strengthened my grasp on the only truth that I hold above all truths, if any.

Kierkegaard is an individualist, which is, I think, another way of saying that he is an existentialist. I never claimed to be one because it sounds a little pretentious. I am cynical, so I know the workings of other cynics. Anyway, Kierkegaard’s philosophies are largely existentialist in nature.

I think this is a nice book to reread because the philosophy part is fun in itself. Call me a big nerd, but I can’t help it. I think a lot of people have negative thoughts when they hear of Karl Marx, but his philosophies, as presented in the book, makes a lot of sense. Finishing the book could help one to lay out his own set of philosophies.

So yes. Everyone, I recommend this to you. ( )
1 vote angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Sophie's World is a unique story in that at the same time it tells the daily life of a fifteen-year old girl in Norway, it is also a condensed history of Western philosophy for the last 3,000 years ranging from the pre-Socratics to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Gaarder concisely and engagingly summarises the key trends and themes in each of the major philosophical schools the West has produced while couching it in the narrative of a young girl's broadening philosophical education.

From the introduction of George Berkeley, the narrative shifts to meta-fiction as Sophie and her philosophy teacher become aware that they are fictitious characters in a novel written for Hilde Møller Knag by her father. The rest of the story continues with the philosophy education while Sophie and her teacher try to escape the constrains of fiction.

This metanarrative helps move the plot along much quicker than at the beginning when the only conflict is general teenage angst between a daughter and her mother. Yet it is Gaarder's ability to condense 3,000 years of history into 400 pages and to simplify often extremely complicated philosophical arguments without trivialising them. This book therefore is perfect for a young adult's introduction to philosophy (much like it was for Sophie and Hilde) and indeed for anyone looking to discover more about Western philosophy or have refresher course therein.

One complaint I would have is that it neglects the strong tradition of Eastern (Indian, Chinese, Japanese etc.) philosophies but nevertheless this is a uniquely interesting book and worth reading. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Not bad as a philosophical adventure story for young adults. There are a few scenes in the novel where I became unsure of the author's intended audience however. The narrative gimmicks are often clunky (the novel within the novel within the novel, for example)& the author draws out the false suspense as to what is going on way too long & to no purpose. As a condensed tour of Western philosophy, it's not bad, though rather selective. The idea of a novel about philosophy for younger readers is a worthy one & certainly not what one would ever expect from an American author (Gaarder is Norwegian). In Europe I believe students do still study philosophy to some degree. The closest we come here in the U.S. is with courses labeled Critical Thinking, although these may merely devote themselves to deconstructing pop & media culture. Even those didn't exist when I was a student. I think philosophy itself was a dirty word in the Catholic parochial schools that I attended in the 50s & 60s. So, two stars for using the word philosophy in a novel for young readers. That's as far as I'll go. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
Read it in high school for class. Didn't like it much then, but I didn't get it either. Maybe I'd like it better now. ( )
  ClosetWryter | Mar 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
As philoso-narrative, "Sophie's World" is a world above "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" but a universe below "The Magic Mountain." In my view, literate readers would do better to try Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy," which is shorter on magic but longer on wit, intelligence and curmudgeonly skepticism.
 

» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jostein Gaarderprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eriksson, MonaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haefs, GabrieleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klok, JankeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Møller, PauletteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pijttersen, LucyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Savolainen, KatriinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snoeijing, KimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevens, PaulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
He who cannot draw on three thousand years

is living from hand to mouth.


Goethe
"Colui che non è in grado di darsi conto di
tremila anni rimane al buio e vive alla giornata".

JOHANN WOLFGANG GOETHE
Dedication
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Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school.
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Deze roman over de geschiedenis van de filosofie is een spannend verhaal, een detective en een filosofie-geschiedenis in één: een intrigerende roman die iedereen zal aanspreken die iets over zichzelf en de wereld om zich heen wil leren.
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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 irrestistible 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 pilosophy she is learning--but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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