Sophie's World A Novel About the History of Philosophy

Jostein Gaarder; Translated by Paulette Møller

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

544 Pages



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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 irresistible 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 philosophy she is learning—but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined.


Praise for Sophie's World

"First, think a beginner's guide to philosophy . . . Next, imagine a fantasy novel—something like a modern-day version of Through the Looking Glass. Meld these disparate genres, and what do you get? Well, what you get is an improbable international bestseller . . . [A] tour de force."—Time
"Extraordinary . . . The book will serve as a first-rate introduction to anyone who never took an introductory philosophy course, and as a pleasant refresher for those who have."—Newsweek
"Remarkable . . . A whimsical and ingenious mystery novel that also happens to be a history of philosophy."—The Washington Post Book World
"As remarkable for its playful premise as for its accessibility . . . The essential charm of Sophie's World lies in the innocent curiosity of the young character, and the clever narrative structure Gaarder designed to pique it."—Columbus Dispatch
"Brilliant . . . Unlike any other novel . . . Its depth of learning, its intelligence, and its totally original conception give it enormous magnetic appeal . . . To be fully human, and to feel our continuity with 3,000 years of philosophical inquiry, we need to put ourselves in Sophie's world."—Boston Sunday Globe
“Gaarder’s novel, brilliant in its philosophical scope and concision, narrates the intellectual maturation of its protagonist, Sophie Amundsen, a 14 year-old girl living in Norway . . . It is a wonderful source for a basic introduction to philosophy, especially for younger generations of readers who have already devoured J.K. Rowling’s and Philip Pullman’s books and who are looking for something else to satiate their desire for intellectual intrigue, mystery and adventure.”—Marcie Bianco, Feminist Review
"A simply wonderful, irresistible book . . . A cross between Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy and Alice in Wonderland."—The Daily Telegraph [UK]
"A rare bird indeed, a short history of Western philosophical thought from Socrates to Sartre, coyly embedded in the wrapping of a suspense novel."—New York Newsday
"An entertaining brainteaser of a novel . . . Sophie thinks like a Platonist in the early part of the course, like an empiricist in the middle, and like an existentialist toward the end."—Books & Culture
"From the opening Goethe quotation to the closing discussion of the Big Bang theory, this is an extraordinary, exciting, provocative book . . . Gaarder presents a didactic history of philosophical thought as part of a fictional mystery story that both pulls readers along and breaks up the 'heavy' explanations into manageable parts. Yet the plot is itself a philosophical conundrum, [and this] mystery, like the human mystery, is not really resolved, and leaves readers wanting to know more. Gaarder pulls off the difficult feat of blending philosophy and entertainment in a way that will capture young adults' interest and make them eager to explore further."—School Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The Garden of Eden  . . . at some point something must have come from nothing . . . Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware? When they got to the supermarket they went their separate ways. Sophie lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb and had almost twice as far to go to school as Joanna. There were no other houses beyond her
Read the full excerpt



  • Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Jostein Gaarder's novel Sophie's World. 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 strange—but irresistible—beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with these and other questions that explore matters both small and large, some that take her mind far beyond what she knows of her family and life in her Norwegian village.



  • Jostein Gaarder; Translated by Paulette Møller

  • Jostein Gaarder was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1952. He taught high-school philosophy for several years before publishing a collection of short stories in 1986 and, shortly thereafter, his first two novels, The Solitaire Mystery and Sophie's World, and several others since then. He lives in Oslo with his family.
  • Jostein Gaarder ©Haege Hatveit Moe




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