For fun this summer I picked up Sophie's World, a 1991 book by Oslo native and former high school philosophy teacher Jostein Gaardner. I finished it tonight after a couple-day marathon session to reach the end. It pulled me in. Subtitled A Novel About the History of Philosophy, it's a fictional account of a 15 year-old girl, Sophie, who begins receiving mysterious packets in the mail containing philosophy lessons. Cloaked in mystery, this private philosophy course takes her from prehistoric myths through Greece, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Existentialism and little Sophie is in no uncertain terms blown away - quite unlike any college student I've so far taught - by what she learns. Gaardner playfully toys with his readers and his characters by introducing fantasy and magic with little guidance to distinguish what is real and what is fantasy. At heart Sophie's World paints an colorful picture of Western thought with broad strokes and language even a 15 year-old can understand. If you've studied philosophy and already know what Aquinas, Augustine, Spinoza, Hume, and Kierkegaard said, then don't bother. This is really for those of us who've never had a philosophy course and who may know a little about some of these folks but nothing about the "big picture." The back story - that is, the parts that aren't exegeses of Western philosophy - is slow until the mid-point, and the writing in those parts could be better. On the whole, though, it's a great book to cruise through if, like me, you feel guilty reading throwaway novels that teach you nothing. Now I'm ready for the grown-up version that Heather has been simultaneously reading, The Passion of the Western Mind.