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Publisher's Summary

One day, 14-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find two notes in her mailbox, 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.

A pause-resisting novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, Sophie's World has fired the imagination of listeners all over the world, having been translated into 45 languages and with over 20 million copies in print. 

©1991 H. Aschelhoug and Co. (W. Nygaard), Oslo. Translation 1994 Paulette Moller (P)2007 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Critic Reviews

"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)
"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)
"Sophie's World is sheer delight. How I wish I'd had it during my college freshman survey of philosophy!" (Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time)

What listeners say about Sophie's World

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jenny
  • 14-05-13

Great learning, Good story, Interesting twist

Where does Sophie's World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is definitely one of my favorite audible books. Great learning, good story, and as the story continues there is an interesting twist to the plot.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I wish I could have. Second best had to do, that is to say, as I was driving back and fort to work.

Any additional comments?

I found that the audio was broken in three places. In two places some audio was missing, in one place two sequences had been turn around. It hurt the story a bit but not too badly.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Steven
  • 15-08-07

Great introduction to Western Philosophy

If you're interested in the development of philosophical thought from the Greeks onwards but don't want to get bogged down in 'serious' reading this is the book for you. Well written, quite gripping and the narrator does a good job. Only criticism is that goes off at a strange tangent at the end.

26 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Alexander L.
  • 15-09-17

Avoid this particular recording

While the book itself is wonderful, it should be mentioned that this recording has missing sections (not abridged, but actual dropped audio) and some areas where chapters or sections seem to have been swapped.

For the most part, you'll be able in infer what has happened in the story, but it really is enough to take you out of the experience.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • wendy
  • 13-10-11

Enjoyable!

This was assigned for a class which I took, so I was rather worried about it being dry and dreadfully boring. I was surprised that it's actually well written and presents an interesting overview. Recommended as a great introduction to the history of philosophy.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Rich
  • 25-08-15

Easy-to-Read, Broad Overview of Western Philosophy

If you've heard of names in philosophy like Nietzsche, Hume, Plotinus and the like, wanted to learn more and didn't know where to start, this is an excellent read. The book is targeted for the intellectual YA audience, but I think it's great for anyone looking for an introduction into this field.

I really appreciated the history of western theology present in the book as well--I wasn't expecting that to be present, but it's a very necessary component for what this book is trying to accomplish. Hearing someone talk about Jesus as just another philosopher in a historical context was very refreshing.

I found Spinoza, Kant and Kierkegaard and Sartre to be most interesting. And the pre-Socratics. And the Renaissance. And Marx. And the British empiricists. Heck, it's ALL interesting. Now there's a whole slew of other authors and titles that I want to read.

The fictional plot is a pleasant-enough vehicle for the book. I didn't find myself engrossed with the characters, but that wasn't why I read this title. I appreciated the acknowledgement of philosophy's male-centric history, and that more women are needed in the field. Perhaps that's why Gaarder chose his characters to be teenage girls, to encourage the girls of today to take up philosophy--nice touch.

Vance's narration was fine. It took a little while to get used to his "reading a storybook" intonation, but that actually fits the title well.

I wouldn't be surprised if I decide to read this title again in 2-3 years; a credit well-spent for sure.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • DSS
  • 30-09-09

Sophie's World

The side story is kind of lightweight, and I almost put the novel down because of that, however, Sophie's narrative provides the little breaks in the philosphical passages that allow you to digest the ideas presented. Hardcore philosphy scholars will likely dismiss this as merely a broad overview of philosophic thought. However, for readers/listeners who would like to learn a little bit about philosphy without getting mired in Aristotle's lecture notes, this makes the subject seem accessible and maybe even a little engaging.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Jay
  • 08-07-12

Interesting concept

What other book might you compare Sophie's World to and why?

There may be other books like Sophie's World, but it was unique to me, which makes it hard to compare to other books. It is probably possible to slip in knowledge that would normally be above a child's level using this writing style (i.e., a textbook wrapped in a fictional story).

In fact, I'm not sure some of Sophie's World wasn't above my head, and I've been listen to a some adult-level philosophy books lately.

The first half of the book was excellent. The second half of the book, not so much. For one, the ending felt rushed, and current philosophy was done horribly. It isn't that I might not agree that New Age philosophy won't get us anywhere, but there was little to no reasoning behind putting it down, other than the author just didn't seem to like it.

And I sort of see the need to include people like Darwin and Sigmund Freud, but some of this could have been dumped and more time spent on real current philosophy. And not only was too much time spent on this, but it was pretty much textbook, which as another reviewer pointed out, some information is now invalid scientifically.

In hearing the author lay it on heavy for not believing in the supernatural, toward the end of the book, I wondered what an updated version of the book might include about quantum physics, or something like The Field, by Lynn Mctaggart, where the "spooky action at a distance" is pretty scientifically solid?

In the future, I will probably listen to the first half of this book again, and it alone makes it worth purchasing, which is good because the second half was a let down.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nancy M
  • 23-04-11

A Story within a Philosophy history overview

This was an awesome book. I've long been curious about Philosophy and the philosophers. I have the book to read but could only focus on a couple of chapters focusing on the details. Then listening I was in rap attention of each episode of the chapters and characters. What a surprise ending, or did it end? You will enjoy it for its story telling and what you learn of Philosophy as well.

4 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Daryl
  • 23-10-07

Sophies world

Some of the audio was missing, I had the actual book in from of me and I had to stop and read several pages.

52 people found this helpful

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  • rudy
  • 19-03-13

brief historical masterpiece of philosophy

If you could sum up Sophie's World in three words, what would they be?

artistic history of philosophy

What other book might you compare Sophie's World to and why?

another book that is difficult to compare to as it goes well beyond traditional writings of history that become ill in affect and redundant in nature....well thought out and expressed through the refreshing mind of a young adolescent.

Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favorite?

all of the characters were expressions of brilliance of intellect.....the relationship between sophie and alberto was equally brilliant and well developed...both characters, as performed by Vance were worthy of Oscars.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Although not able to because of time constraints; YES, i would have loved to have reveled in one sitting and may return for such an experience.

Any additional comments?

Sophie's World should be common place in Each and Every educational system....every teenage adolescent would benefit immensely from an the open mind of Jostein Gaarder and every mind should remain as inquisitive as the greatest of philosophers.

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Gillian Challenger
  • 04-04-18

Sophie’s World hiccups

Excellent narration for a good story BUT the production drove me nuts. It hiccuped, stuttered and stopped randomly for no apparent reason. Would have returned it but wanted to hear the story out so persevered.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Oana A.
  • 23-06-17

A great book

It is a shame I didn't encounter this book 9 years ago when I was Sophie's age. I truly enjoyed the incorporated philosophy course.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mahdi Dibaiee
  • 01-02-20

Please fix the chapters

There are 35 chapters in this book, not 13. This makes navigating between chapters much harder.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-04-20

Fantastic story - An instant favourite

I wasn't quite sure how to place the star ratings so I will just explain why they are as such.

The story itself is absolutely brilliant and I enjoyed every part of it right up to the end. It certainly provides a fantastic overview of philosophy throughout the ages, alongside a story that fittingly grows from simplicity in to something more complex and captivating. I won't say any more on it because I hate spoilers.

The intro/outro music is fitting to the vibe of the story and the narration is well articulated and varied. The reason for my fewer stars on performance (and therefore overall) was because I was reading the physical book alongside listening to the audiobook and found that there are several points in the audiobook that it skipped a paragraph here and there. I understand that is likely just due to my copy being an older publication, however there was one point when the narration simply skipped backwards quite far through the story and I had to faff around fast-forwarding it back to where it had skipped from in order to continue, so I think that is an actual error in the audiobook. If you were to buy the audiobook through credits (so £6) I think that is quite forgivable, however for it's full listed price I would have expected that to be amended.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Y
  • 28-08-18

Not for me

The book was recommended as an introduction to philosophy, found the story quite vexing & didn't learn much about philosophy.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-02-16

excellent to listen to

This is a fascinating story and very easy to listen to. I would recommend it wholeheartedly

2 people found this helpful

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  • sandrodc
  • 08-12-15

Outstanding combination of subject, story telling and performance.

The idea of writing the history of philosophy in a language suitable for for young adults is a stroke of genius in itself. But Gaarder's brings it to life in a plot that is imaginative, humorous and faithful to the subject at all times. Finally, Simon Vance's performance adds an extra dimension to this already extraordinary take. Its as if the characters were telling it themselves!

2 people found this helpful

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  • ken bearpark
  • 16-02-21

Do not buy until they sort the glitches

Sophie’s World is an excellent book, see book reviews. But at the moment I would only recommend it in book form as the audible version has serious glitches which spoil the experience. They are jumps back to earlier sections which then repeat and also break ups in audio quality combined with said jumps.
Buy the book instead, or wait until the glitches have been resolved (unlikely).

1 person found this helpful

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  • Seagull
  • 31-10-20

Entertaining and thought provoking

I first came across this book a good few years ago, and now hearing it read aloud was an added pleasure. There is so much food for thought contained in it, that it certainly hadn't palled over the intervening years. I found the narration was fine. There's a lot of dialogue, and although Sophie's voice may not be exactly as one imagines a 14 year old girl to speak, it did have the huge advantage of differentiating between which characters were talking - something which is not always the case in audiobooks.
Would thoroughly recommend for people of all ages.

1 person found this helpful

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  • sam lundrigan
  • 16-11-18

Brilliant story

amazing story just for me the narrator is speaking to quickly and can't fully grasp the complex topics!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Variety
  • 09-10-19

Buggy file

I got this book in hard copy to reference in further research, as this is philosophy 101 nestled in a story.

I had to refer to the book to figure out what was going on in a couple of sections because the file jumped.

In one instance it missed 3 lines and that changed the whole context because they had moved in those lines.

In another the file jumped forward a chapter and then jumped back to where it had jumped from.

Filed a bug report but yet to be resolved

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tiit Pähn
  • 26-01-18

My favourite book by far

This book should be in every home to help people to understand their world better

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-09-18

A good introduction to Philosophy.

An overall good story however I feel that the is some parts missing from the story like the narrator or the translator just skipped over some bits of the dialogue.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lauren Bird
  • 25-03-21

Missing a bit in chapter 7

I love this book but the narrator's Sophie voice is really off-putting, nothing like a man speaking like a little girl. Also there is a chunk of the story missing at the end of chapter 7 (about 5 minutes from the end) which is really jarring.

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  • Jeff and Emmy
  • 20-03-21

Audio file needs fixing

Sorry is engaging and interesting, but the editing of the audio had serious problems that made it hard to finish listening to.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-01-21

Intro to philosophy

Great book to undertand philosophy...
At school they ask to read it, never passed the greeks... Now 20 yrs later I finished the audiobook and understood a great deal of humanity wisdom.

Now i have more questions and a system to keep making them as to look for an answer.

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  • Nathan Andrew
  • 13-08-20

Brilliant

Igniting imagination and laying a simple but broad foundation for many to understand the history of philosophy, and to see their place in our present, and just maybe our future.

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  • Lauren
  • 20-02-20

Great listen

Educational and unique, kept me wanting to know what happened next. The narrator was good too.

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  • Paige
  • 07-04-17

Great story, well read

Really easy to listen to and not over dramatic. Everyone should listen to/read this book at least once in their lives.