Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder, translated by Paulette Møller, 2/5
The most thought-provoking aspect of this reading experience was simply trying to understand how a book featuring such peculiarly bad writing could be published at all, much less become an “international bestseller.” Half of it consists of dialogue between two-dimensional characters, so stilted and unnatural it has to be read to be believed. The other half reads like increasingly vague course descriptions for philosophy classes taught by someone who considers Wikipedia articles to be the pinnacle of literary accomplishment through the ages. In my experience, fiction writing this bad generally relies on themes like sex, mystery or fantasy to attract readers, so I guess in a twisted way this book’s very existence is a testament to the powerful appeal of philosophical ideas and the ubiquity of existential angst.
Why I read it: recommended to me by a gym friend.
Heyerdahl is at it again, living out a real-life adventure story as he sails across the Atlantic in a boat made of reeds and rope. I love how the author researches and resurrects ancient technology, but I didn’t find this book to be as fresh and compelling as his account of the Kon-Tiki expedition. This was just a bit more calculated and agenda-driven, lacking the magical sense of adventure and soul that infused Heyerdahl’s earlier portrayal of his journey aboard the famous balsa wood raft. I suspect it was the Kon-Tiki fame and corresponding sense of responsibility that stole away some of the spontaneity of his earlier adventures.
N.B. I would suggest nobody buy this 1988 Scribner Laidlaw edition, which not only lacks the original photographs but, annoyingly, still includes captions for them.
Why I read it: My brother intended to reread it during our trip to Norway, but I hijacked it.