Title: Sophie’s World
Author: Jostein Gaarder
Year Published: 1995
Genre: Fiction and Non-fiction
My Rating: 4.5 on 5
Sophie’s World is a course on philosophy wrapped in a fictitious story. It starts with Sophie Amundsen, a fourteen year old girl, getting back home from school just like any other day to find a mysterious letter with some philosophical questions like Who are you? and Where did you come from? Every day she receives a package which contains details about philosophers who dealt with those philosophical questions. Thus begins Sophie’s correspondence course on philosophy. Sophie finds out later that her teacher is Alberto Knox who is inclined to teach her everything about philosophy. Why he wants to do that and why he chooses Sophie is a mystery which is revealed at the end of the book. Sophie also receives some letters addressed to Hilde. Why does Sophie receive letters meant for Hilde is another mystery.
Keeping the fictional part apart, this is a very interesting book for its non-fiction content. The part where Knox talks about early philosophers and their ideas and how their religion, location and culture influenced their ideas is very interesting. The author covers everything about philosophy – ancient myths, Democritus, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Christianity, Renaissance, Baroque, Descartes and then more modern philosophers like Darwin, Marx, Freud and Sartre. This book is like a Philosophy 101 Course. Don’t let that discourage you because this book is nothing like the boring text books.
What makes this book so interesting is that the author chooses to pepper the philosophical discussions with enough examples and anecdotes, so this book does not end up being as drab as a text book on philosophy but engages and encourages the reader to brood and think and question. I have always been interested in philosophy, but never made an attempt to learn. Thanks to this book, now I know atleast the key figures and jargons and I can take it forward from here. I always knew ‘I think, I therefore I am’ was a quote from Descartes, but never knew the context in which he said it. After I read the part about Descartes, I know why he said it and it makes perfect sense.
I don’t want to comment on the fictional part of this book because, honestly, I don’t care. The content on philosophy is so rich and interesting, that I don’t care what is happening in Sophie’s world. The only reason why I gave this book 4.5 is because the fictional part is so boring. For me, reading this book was an enriching experience. I wish I could re-read this book to ensure that I drank in everything that the book had to offer.
I happened to spot this book at the library and I decided to read it because I liked the blurb. I read a few pages and really liked what I read. On googling, I realized this book is a best-seller. That was a surprise! After I finished the book, I decided to know more about the author and that’s when I realized Gaarder is from Norway. This book is a candidate for Nordic Challenge 2011 and I read this book without even realizing it. Is that a co-incidence? Considering that this book is philosophical, that question takes on new meanings!
PS: I know this review is vague and not informative. I am so enamored by this book that I feel like a kid who has found a new toy. And I couldn’t wait till I got back to my senses, so whatever came out from my keyboard onto my screen is pasted here as a review.