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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy for the uninitiated
This is a book to teach young adults about philosophy and ideas that have influenced the world. 15 year old Sophie starts to receive messages that ask her to think about who she is and where the world comes from. Then Alberto Knox sends her lessons about philosophers' attempts to ask and answer philosophical questions. The lessons cover highlights of 2000 years of...
Published on 11 Sep 2009 by Cem Tanova

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A (decent) history of Western philosophy disguised as a (middle of the road) novel
Jostein Gaarder has written a concise history of Western philosophy, disguised as a novel. The good news is that the 2000 years of Western philosophy is well explained, the bad news is that the fiction that he hangs the story around, isn't that impressive.

For a philistine such as myself, whose understanding of philosophy extends to having read Plato's Republic...
Published on 3 Aug 2008 by Tristan Martin


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy for the uninitiated, 11 Sep 2009
By 
Cem Tanova - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
This is a book to teach young adults about philosophy and ideas that have influenced the world. 15 year old Sophie starts to receive messages that ask her to think about who she is and where the world comes from. Then Alberto Knox sends her lessons about philosophers' attempts to ask and answer philosophical questions. The lessons cover highlights of 2000 years of philosophical thought. She also begins to receive some postcards from a UN observer in Lebanon. The philosophy lessons are made interesting by the story of Sophie trying to figure out why she is receiving the lessons and the postcards. This book is not only a great introduction to philosophy for young adults but would be a fascinating read for everyone who heard about different philosophers' ideas throughout their lives but never really got around to reading about philosophy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Want to know more, don't feel like studying ?, 17 July 2004
This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
Do you want to know more about the History of Philosophy, but don't feel like studying?. This might be the solution for you !!!.
In "Sophie's World" you will find an interesting novel, intertwined almost seamlessly with the History of Philosohy. Is that possible?. For Jostein Gaarder, yes. This former philosophy teacher, born in 1952 in Oslo (Norway), reached success with this book, which has managed to attract even those not commonly interested in Philosophy and also, somehow, to become part of the bibliography of many undergraduate philosophy courses.
The plot of the book is rather simple. It centers on Sophie Amundsen, a fourteen year old girl approaching her fifteen birthday, who one day begins to receive letters from someone she doesn't know. In those letters, her unknown correspondent begins to tell her about the History of Philosophy, the subject he studies. Sophie's goes on receiving those letters throughout the novel, and they become an essential part of the plot, which is a mystery with unexpected turnarounds.
I would like to point out that I noticed a change in Sophie's attitude towards the world and what was happening around her, as the novel is nearer to its end. After learning in those letters about the History of Philosophy (that could also be called the History of Thought), she starts to think in a different, more analytical way. In my opinion, the reader suffers the same process that changes Sophie, and that is not a bad thing at all.
It is important to remark upon the fact that the letters that Sophie's correspondent sends her are written in a clear way, so that she (a teenager) would be able to understand them. Due to the fact that in those letters the main theme is Philosophy, the reader can not only enjoy a good novel but also have access to graspable explanations regarding the ideas of some philosophers, so far unknown or incomprehensible to him.
I recommend this book to anybody curious enough to want to read it. It doesn't require too much effort: you will learn without being aware of doing so. Concerning the age of the reader, I think that "Sophie's World" can be read easily by teenagers, but will also be appealing to adults who enjoy a good book.
On the whole, I believe this book is worth buying, reading and keeping. It is not perfect, though, because I think that the plot of the novel could have been better.
However, there aren't too many perfect things in this world, and unfortunately that includes books. So my advice is: read it !!!. You are highly likely to enjoy doing that, and you will appreciate the change of perspective that "Sophie's World" will bring to you.
Belen Alcat
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dual book, 27 Nov 2009
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This is rather a dual book, on the one hands its very good 'history of philosophy' and other it's 'Sophie's Worlds: A Novel'. The first aspect of the book is very well presented and the author has a very effective way of the presenting complex concepts in an understandable and engaging way. The novel aspect of the book is very bland and I found myself skimming the some of the story parts as I got towards the end of book.

I was also left a little battled by what the 'philosophy teachers' take on spirituality actually was. The teacher explains that philosophers such as Plato have believed that a spirit level exists and our physical plane is in fact a reflection of that level. Later in the teacher explains that the new wave of interest in spirituality and 'supernatural' is nothing but 'humbug'. Seems a rather closed minded for a philosopher teacher.

Saying this its well worth a read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and Highly Informative, 19 Feb 2009
By 
Lee Mcandrew - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
With a book like this, it's important to know what kind of book it is before you read it. First and foremost this is an educational book, in which the lessons are faciltated by means of a story, so if it's light fiction your after then this isn't the book for you. This may sound obvious to most people, but I know a couple of people who bought this book not realising this. As for me I knew what I was buying beforehand (indeed I deliberately bought it to be educated) and therefore got a lot out of it. As far as I'm concerned this book more than achieves it's goal in teaching what can be a complex subject in a relatively understandable way. My only gripe about this book is that sometimes Sophie's dialogue (both in her conversations with the people around her and in her internal thought process) can feel a bit contrived and, for me at least, slightly irritating. Again though let us remember that this is an educational book and should be judged mainly on that basis. That being said though, one clever aspect of the story writing in this book is that early on in the story there are a number of questions relating to the plot that are answered later in ways you weren't really expecting at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel to make you look at the world anew, 7 Dec 2007
By 
Nancy Williams "tigertwo" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
I can't recommend this book enough. It isn't just a journey through Western philosophy - it is a story which encourages you to think about your reality and your life from angles you may never have looked before. Delivered through the medium of Alberto Knox - an enigmatic philosophy teacher who arrives in the life of Sophie in a mysterious letter, the book gives rise to a completely different view of reality.

It follows the story of Sophie and Hilde. As stranger and stranger things begin to happen in Sophie's world, it becomes a confusing question of what is going on. Alberto finally covers the philosophy of Berkeley, who posited that the world was nothing more than a figment of the mind of God, and then Sophie's world is turned upside down.

I sat thinking about the book long after I had finished it, contemplating the universe, and my reality and my life. It was like I was given the chance to look at in anew, through different philosophies I had not considered before. It was an incredible experience and one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys thinking.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, Mind-bending, compelling � but for children?, 16 Feb 2003
By 
A. J. Kirke "alexis kirke" (Plymouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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Reading Sophie's World is a great investment of time. Sophies World set me off on a journey of learning all about philosophy. Since then I have devoured other books on the subject. But it was all thanks to this book that I got started. It put the philosophical ideas within the framework of a story about a little girl Sophie and her daily life. Sophie starts to receive mysterious philosophy lessons in the post. At least 50% of the book consists of these "lessons". They are very readable and truly mind-expanding. They teach alot about the development of philsophy over history. It was fascinating exciting reading for me.
The underlying story of what happens to Sophie becomes, in itself, a sort of philosophical investigation. The twist is really rather mind blowing. This book not only introduces the reader to major philosophical ideas, but also implements some really interesting and mind-bending ones in the way it is written.
I cannot recommend this book enough. The joy of learning and thinking are at its core, but it is not some dry textbook. By the time you are a quarter of the way through, you will already be "climbing out of the rabbit fur" as Sophie would say. Reading this book was the beginning of a year long journey of learning and excitement for me. But it was also a fun experience. I do not know how interesting a child under 14 would find this book, but I am an adult of 33 and I loved it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great on several levels, 12 Sep 2012
This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
This was a book a friend lent me, so it's important to note that I didn't make any specific plans to read it. It was pure chance that I picked it up and started reading, but what a pleasant accident it was!

This book works well on a number of levels. It is, first and foremost, a novel. It has a generally interesting plot, (which I'll admit is a little slow at times) interesting and engaging characters and a pretty good narrative.

Second and most interestingly, however, the book is also an introduction to the history of Western philosophy. This is where the book excels itself. For some time now, I've been trying to broaden my knowledge of philosophy. I've tried several books with varying degrees of success, but Sophie's World was something quite different. While philosophical concepts aren't explained in any great detail, the Philosopher Alberto is an excellent teacher and Sophie, the eponymous student, likes to see philosophical concepts demonstrated with examples. This I found pleasing, since an awful lot of philosophy deals with painfully abstract concepts. Western Philosophy, from the ancient Greeks to Jean-Paul Sartre is covered through Sophie's "philosophy course" given by the mysterious, enigmatic Alberto.

I can't give this book five stars, however. The plot, though interesting in places, gets off to a very slow start, and peaks too soon. It also gets quite convoluted and confusing towards the end of the book. The characters, Sophie especially, struck me as a little pretentious.

This being said, however, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, philosopher or not. It's an interesting read, an excellent bed-time book and one that really makes you think about things in a new light.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to philosophy not so good story, 29 Mar 2011
By 
James Rands (Europe) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
Jostein Gaarder writes well or his translator does - whichever way this is well written with accessible and compelling prose. I bought this after it was recommended as an introduction to philosophy and at that it is great. Gaarder's relaxed style, superb use of examples and the interplay between the curious Sophie and her philosopher mentor Alberto Knox makes an often turgid and offputting world interesting, enticing and above all accessible. I am reading my masters in philosophy now and as an introduction to all of the big ideas of philosophy I couldn't really have done better. Of course covering so much does mean that from time to time some of the coverage is superficial but it is only an introduction. As a philosophy textbooks go brilliant.

The story follows Sophie as she approaches her fifteenth birthday and begins receive strange letters and notes asking questions such as "who are you?" and "where do you come from?" The notes are followed by complex letters explaining philosophy from the pre-Socratics to modern day new-agers and existentialists. Eventually Sophie meets her intiguing tutor (much to her mother's consternation) and they begin to explore some of the more complex issues together. All the while Sophie is also receiving notes from a Major based with the UN in Lebanon for his daughter Hilde (with whom Sophie shares a birthday). The premise is actually very interesting and I was intrigued to find the relationship between Hilde and Sophie. Gaarder is keen on stories within stories and this book weaves intricate tales within tales and hints at the possibility of more. And actually as a result the last hundred pages aren't very good and the end is frankly rubbish.

So as a story I can't really recommend this despite how well it starts but as a lively introduction to the subject of philosophy spot on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... we too are stardust..., 20 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Paperback)
The novel, Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder, is an extremely entertaining and educational novel, in which a young girl named Sophie is introduced to the quintessential questions that philosophers have been asking since the dawn of enlightenment such as; what the meaning of life is and where the world came from. The author begins the novel in such a way that it shocks the reader into realising that they are letting themselves "be lulled into the enchanted sleep of their humdrum existence". This warns the reader that they are not starting 'just another novel': they are letting themselves in for an experience which seems to be aimed almost specifically at them. Philosophy is basically the search for the answers to lifes most important, but at the same time most basic, questions. However, most people choose to ignore these important issues. Instead they allow themselves to become content with their inconsequential lives: their conventional comforts, problems and ideas. They do not even take the time to marvel at how amazing the world is or the fact that they are stumbling around on a planet which is floating in space. This is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Mentally stimulating and thought provoking, but at the same time entertaining and amusing it is the perfect introduction to philosophy and a good read for those who are already acquainted with the subject. For anyone who does buy and enjoy this novel, I can also reccomend 'The Solitaire Mystery', by the same author.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindboggling!, 9 April 2002
By A Customer
I picked this book up with the intention of learning a little about the philosphers and their ideals so that I could hold my own in a conversation about philosophy. Gaarder's depictions of the main philosophers through Alberto's letters to Sophie and later their conversations did just that - I feel now that I can converse with people on the merits of philosophy, the ideals, the incongruities and the whole concept of thinking.
But it didn't stop there. He poses his own questions through his plot. He invites the reader to contemplate Life, drawing you in to the complexities of existence with a jovial tone. His simplistic approach is relaxing and informative without being condescending nor trivialising complex concepts. His subtext is ingenious, and yet highly ironic - the only other writer I have found to handle irony this well is Jane Austen.
It was the last chapter that astounded me, however. An ardent believer in Science and The Big Bang, Gaarder posed a question I have never thought about before. Is this Life's only chance?
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Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy
Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder (Paperback - 5 Oct 2000)
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