Beth's Reviews > Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
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did not like it
bookshelves: zzzzzzzzz, yuk
Recommended for: nobody

I was a philosophy major in school and *everybody* would ask if I had read Sophie's World. "What an amazing book!" they would gush. "You'll love it!"

So I bought it. Purchased the book, let it simmer on my shelf for awhile, and finally picked it up a few years ago to give it a go.

I slogged through the first few chapters. Did my best to suspend my disbelief at the transparently device the author uses to introduce the ideas of many famous (and not-so-famous) philosophers. I tried to ignore the sophomoric dialog and trite inner-monologue of the child. I even put the book in the bathroom so I could force myself to keep reading it. I filled in with other books... maybe it was just too much philosophy at once! If I took it in smaller doses, perhaps I'd enjoy this survey of the subject.

Then one glorious day the cleaners came and managed to knock the book between the washer and dryer. It's a sign! Oh thank god, a sign that I can stop trying to love this horrible, wretched, unlovable book!

Last week, the cleaners unearthed the book. It's pages mangled, the paperback spine bending it into a permanant spread eagle position. Maybe it gets better! How do I *know* the book won't redeem itself in the 2nd half? Surely all those people couldn't be wrong about the book, or misjudge whether I'd like it or not. Surely.

...and into the recycle bin it goes.
The End.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2005 – Finished Reading
July 11, 2007 – Shelved
July 11, 2007 – Shelved as: zzzzzzzzz
November 24, 2008 – Shelved as: yuk

Comments Showing 1-32 of 32 (32 new)

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message 1: by Brock (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:33AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Brock So I actually read the entire book last summer. Yes it was rather cutesy, but I was hoping for some kind of growth into deeper territory as the philosophical ideas would start applying to the lives of the characters. That *sort-of* happens, but in a completely trivial, excessively contrived, and ultimately unrewarding manner. Basically it ends up degenerating into a cartoon.

Hope the recycling bin enjoyed it, at least.


message 2: by Chris Van Dyke (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris Van Dyke I'm glad to see that someone wrote up a review of this book which matches mine. The fact that this book has a 3.6 rating sort of causes me to worry.

I was forced to read this book after my mom said she loved it, and it was REALLY hard to temper my reactions.


message 3: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Mark Glad to see this. A few years ago, I became a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver's 20-page rule: If the book hasn't grabbed you by the 20th page, toss it. I too had let Sophie's World sit on a shelf for a long time based on buzz, and when I tried it, it was like eating liver. Yeccch! One of the most overrated works ever ...


message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Greene Well, realize, friend that the point was not to be an incredibly deep discussion of dialectical materialism, but rather as an introduction to the field of philosophy that went at LUDICROUS SPEED. I have a feeling that the author wanted to say more, but knew that it was going to lose people's interests after page 500...


message 5: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Sure, Jim, I get that. I expected it to be simplified. But even allowing for that, crudely shoehorning surface analysis of complex theories into a weak story device isn't going to entice me as a reader.


message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Greene Different strokes for different folks, Beth. I loved the story line, it held my attention when I read it in high school. And for those of us that enjoyed the story, it really inspired us to plunge deeper and continue studying individual philosophers and their philosophy. :)


message 7: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Well, I'm glad it works for some people.
As I mentioned in my original review, I came at it from a completely different angle -- I was an adult reader who had a 4-year Philosophy degree under my belt when I read it. I was hoping for a nice refresher and intro to some of the philosophers I hadn't studied. I think it's possible a book could have been written to satisfy both audiences (a younger, un/under-exposed to philosophy reader & an adult, philosophy educated reader), but it didn't.


message 8: by Tra-Kay (last edited Jul 28, 2010 11:35PM) (new)

Tra-Kay You said it perfectly. I, too, have been hearing about this book for years, and finally started reading it today (the first page didn't catch me, so this was after about a week of subconsciously avoiding it). I was really expecting something marvelous, because I love philosophy and children's stories.

I ended up spiralling the book across the room with satisfaction at about page thirty, due exactly to the transparent devices used to introduce the concepts and "sophomoric dialog and trite inner-monologue of the child". Her reactions are utterly ridiculous.

And what the heck is with that rabbit metaphor? "Philosophers are the fleas that crawl up the hairs..." ~dubious stare~


message 9: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth :D So nice to hear I'm not alone, Kay!


message 10: by Tamim (new) - rated it 1 star

Tamim Nashed me too....i just found it impossible to keep reading it..... full of information which is good....but really boring... there should be more enjoyable ways to get the same info.


Çığda The most booooooriiinnnnggh book ever... The book was like written for "introduction to philosphy 101" class. Maybe good for people who dont know much about philisophy but as for me(graduate of english literature) it was like freshman year book...


message 12: by Benny (new)

Benny King Anybody that tosses a book if the first 20 pages doesn't grab them is a fucking idiot and doesn't deserve literature. How many people throw in some irrelevant "attention-grabber" in the beginning or fuck up the chronology of their story just appease idiots with ADD? Go watch television you throwbacks.

Also, it's a novel for young adults and it will enthrall the audience it is intended for. That a few people that wasted their parents money on knowledge they couldn't understand think the novel doesn't contain a compelling introduction to philosophy with an engaging literary narrative is entirely insignificant.


message 13: by Lin (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lin Gui Beth, if you're interested in Philosophy still, you could try "The Story of Philosophy" by Will Durant. Beats this book hands down. You'll love it.


message 14: by Benny (new)

Benny King Darian wrote: "Beth, if you're interested in Philosophy still, you could try "The Story of Philosophy" by Will Durant. Beats this book hands down. You'll love it."


Go back to rating comics, comparing Durant's volume to this is slightly embarrassing.


Charlie Gordon I read this about fifteen years ago as a young teenager and loved every minute of it. It is a brilliant philosophical seed to plant in the mind of someone so young. But for someone to recommend this book to a college philosophy student seems misguided and I can very much understand why you would have trouble with it.


message 16: by Anatoliy (new)

Anatoliy Obraztsov Agree with you! Fully! Poor book... I rated it 1 too! Comparing with popular today "a crossing or the drop's history" by Anatoliy Obraztsov this one is very poor


Rebecca Marion @Benny King - Thank you, for defending the book's intended audience. I read this when I was a young adult. I will admit that I found the simplistic language somewhat unstimulating, but I absolutely treasured the story and fell in love with philosophy. It served also served to introduce me to less flowery styles of writing. Having studied with a writer's workshop where elaborate style was favored, I am grateful to have been exposed to an alternative.


message 18: by smiti (new)

smiti u r crazy.


Marte What? This book is insanely good, and so exciting! I can't put it down.


Yaman Kaytaz I read this amazing book when I was in high school and loved it so much!

I wonder if I will be able to agree with you if I read it again now that I am 16 years older and hopefully wiser....


message 21: by Karla (new) - rated it 1 star

Karla Pineda I couldn't stand it either. It's so dry and boring. I was excited to learn about philosophy but this is not for me. I started reading other books at the same time and eventually forgot about it!


message 22: by Heather (new)

Heather Kuka This book was so boring I could barely get past the first 50 pages. Glad I'm not alone.


Elma Maliqati OMG I totally agree you!! I had difficulty reading it too, until one day I woke up and said "I don't have to keep reading this awful book only because everyone loves it. I have my own preferences and I don't have to deal with others" Great review, though. Well done!


message 24: by Hope (new) - rated it 1 star

Hope I was 15 years old when I was forced to read it. Help me. It had promise, but that promise died quickly. I agree with everything you said!


Lucía Genial para comenzar a entrar en el mundo de la filosofia.


message 26: by Anne (new)

Anne Saturley I have ploughed my way through the entire book, and I think how one likes or dislikes the novel, or something in-between, depends a great deal on the age and life experiences of the reader. And I'm sure Alberto would have something to say to that, as he is never at a loss for words, to put it politely. I read this as an adult woman with many philosophy credits under her belt, and didn't enjoy it very much, as it had nothing to say to me. But if I had read it in Grade Ten, say, what an eye opener it might have been!


message 27: by Giulia (new)

Giulia Lol, your review was fantastic. Didn't read it, I was reading comments to understand if it's likeable or not!


message 28: by Lakshmi (new)

Lakshmi N I completely agree. I'm really trying to read it. Really trying hard but in the past two weeks I could read only eighty pages. I thought it was only me. So I'm going to put the book into a recycling bin too.


Frances Wolf You're a pompous asshole. How could a philosophy major graduate expect to enjoy a philosophical novel meant for teenagers. Do you purposely go to the children's section of a bookstore to review and demolish books with your pedantic foolishness.


Yaman Kaytaz Go Frances!!


message 31: by Akaya (new)

Akaya Kirihara Lol, some said above it was boring; that they wanted to try philosophy but in an exciting way, lol, seriously? I took up Ancient and Medieval Political Theories, and Modern Political Theories, we read about political philosophy-----and it was never easy. There were no efforts from Aquinas, Agustin, Descartes, Machiavelli, G.D.H. Cole, Rousseau or Cicero to make their books entertaining. That was never the point. Now, I read Sophie's World when I was seventeen, it was my intro to philo per se, so it took me two months to digest it as a whole. There were difficult sections which required further readings, for example on Hegel and Berkeley, but despite the difficulty and perseverance it required, fun springs at the end once you have understood it. Fun in philo is in understanding it. Not in its elegant delivery, nor in its choice of words. Dropped it after 20th page? Lol. You had that rule when you opened a book about philosophy? Lol.


Corina Matei What a crappy review from a crappy reader


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