Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

Albert: Sophie’s World force-feeds you (or enlightens you, depending on your attitude towards philosophy) a Sparknotes-like history of philosophy, embedded in a fictional story. In the story, a stranger, Alberto, teaches a young girl, Sophie, philosophy in the letters he sends her. Luckily for Sophie, it turns out that Alberto is not a pedophile. Also luckily for Sophie, it turns out that she doesn’t have learning difficulties, which I thought she might have due to her noticeable slowness in the beginning.

The story gets much more interesting when Hilde enters the picture, but the final ending doesn’t quite live up to its potential. However, this book is really more about the tidbits of philosophy you learn rather than Sophie’s story, so anyone with an interest in philosophy should find this an excellent read. Rating: B

Kevin: I proposed this book because I’ve always wanted to read philosophy as a hobby, but most of the standard texts are too dense for me. Sophie’s World follows a young girl, Sophie, as she learns about philosophy from Alberto, a mysterious grown man. While she’s not learning, she receives letters from another mysterious figure, the father of a girl named Hilde, who is also, unsurprisingly, mysterious.

I enjoyed Sophie’s World because it met my original hope by providing a broad, easily-accessible overview of the history of philosophy. Admittedly, I skimmed through some of the more well-known philosophy portions, such as the section on Darwinism, but other portions, such as the influence of religion, were quite educating. The mystery plot with Hilde and her father was decent, but I was somewhat bothered by the characters’ one-dimensional personalities, especially that of Sophie’s mom. Rating: B+

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