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Vista Book Group: Life of Pi

Vista Book Group’s February read was the Life of Pi by Yann Martel which won the 2002 Man Booker Prize. The book has three parts, the first of which details Pi Patel’s life in Pondicherry, India and touches on his later life in Toronto, Canada, the second part details his 227 days as a castaway on the Pacific Ocean after the sinking of the Tsimtsum, and the third and shortest part takes place in Mexico where Pi washes ashore and tells his “unbelievable” story to two members of the Japanese Ministry of Transportation Maritime Department.

Piscene Molitor Patel and his family live in Pondicherry, India where they run the local zoo. Sixteen year old Pi is a very religious young man; in fact he is a faithful follower of three different religions: Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Due to political upheaval in his home country of India in 1977 his father decides to move the family to Canada in search of a better life. So, packing up family and the zoo animals which are to be sold in North America, they set out by ship across the Pacific Ocean. The journey goes well enough at first, but after leaving Manila something tragic happens to the ship and Pi is forced to abandon ship without his family.

Pi finds himself floating on a lifeboat, with a tiger named Richard Parker, a zebra, a hyena and an orangutan. Of course, things are quite precarious, and it does not take long before the laws of the jungle come to the fore, until finally only Pi and Richard Parker are the only two alive on the lifeboat. At this point Pi must use his knowledge of animals and all of the other tools at his disposal to save himself and Richard Parker. During his castaway voyage Pi waffles between despair and hope, hoping that his family has somehow survived the shipwreck and knowing deep in his heart that he was the only one of his family to escape the disaster. When he finally washes ashore in Mexico, he tells the story of his horrific journey in a lifeboat with a tiger. Of course, it is not a readily believable story, so Pi offers another account and asks “which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”

All of the book group members that attended liked the book, although many of us found some of the scenes in the story to be somewhat gruesome and difficult to read. Most of us decided that we probably would not have survived the same ordeal. We found the book to be a witty and unique read, so unique that we couldn’t think of a book that would be a good “read-a-like”. However, we did come up with a list of materials that would be good companion reads and of course, the movie. Below please find books on the following subjects: castaways, shipwrecks, survival, voyages, India, religions, books with animal and human protagonists and other books by Yann Martel. If you have read Life of Pi or seen the movie, let us know what you thought. Life of Pi makes for an interesting discussion if you are thinking about using it for your own book group. Also, please view the YouTube video interview with Yann Martel to hear what he has to say about the Life of Pi and about the art of writing.


Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Amazon Says: During one of his several adventurous voyages in the 1600's an Englishman becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck and lives for nearly thirty years on a deserted island. more...
Amazon Says: During one of his several adventurous voyages in the 1600's an Englishman becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck and lives for nearly thirty years on a deserted island. less...
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Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Amazon Says: This masterpiece tells the incredible tale of Lemuel Gulliver, an English ship's surgeon. He is shipwrecked upon the shores of Lilliput, where the residents are only six inche more...
Amazon Says: This masterpiece tells the incredible tale of Lemuel Gulliver, an English ship's surgeon. He is shipwrecked upon the shores of Lilliput, where the residents are only six inches high, then journeys takes him to the land of Brobdingnag, populated by giants, a floating island in the sky, and a land where horses have intelligence and man lives as a beast. His adventures, while read by children as an adventure story, are a devastating satire of society and human foibles. Part travelogue, part realism, part symbolism, Gullivers Travels remains a treasured classic of literature. less...
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Moby-Dick: or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Amazon Says:   A century and a half after its publication, Moby-Dick still stands as an indisputable literary classic. It is the story of an eerily compelling madman purs more...
Amazon Says:   A century and a half after its publication, Moby-Dick still stands as an indisputable literary classic. It is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting, mesmerizing, and important social commentary populated with several of the most unforgettable and enduring characters in literature. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is a profound and timeless inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception. With an Introduction by Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the phenomenal bestseller In the Heart of the Sea. less...
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Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Amazon Says: William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all goin more...
Amazon Says: William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic. less...
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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Amazon Says: Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the tale of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. This story of heroic endeavour won Hemin more...
Amazon Says: Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the tale of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. This story of heroic endeavour won Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature. It stands as a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements. less...
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Amazon Says: In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea.  Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. more...
Amazon Says: In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea.  Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound.  Once, Indians also lived on the island.  And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away.  But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building a shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs.  It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery. less...
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Amazon Says: Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a ri more...
Amazon Says: Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Jacob was there because his luck had run out—orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act—in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air. less...
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MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
Amazon Says: Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously 'handcuffed to history' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children more...
Amazon Says: Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously 'handcuffed to history' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell - we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century. less...
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Amazon Says: In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of fami more...
Amazon Says: In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.   Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award   NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday   NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • Salon • The Plain Dealer • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   “A book of extraordinary intelligence [and] humanity . . . beyond groundbreaking.”—Junot Díaz, The New York Times Book Review   “Reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years.”—New York “This book is both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.”—Judges’ Citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award   “[A] landmark book.”—The Wall Street Journal   “A triumph of a book.”—Amartya Sen   “There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them.”—Adrian Nicole LeBlanc   “[A] stunning piece of narrative nonfiction . . . [Katherine] Boo’s prose is electric.”—O: The Oprah Magazine   “Inspiring, and irresistible . . . Boo’s extraordinary achievement is twofold. She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.”—People less...
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Amazon Says: Dani鬯u's powerful rebuttal to the conventional view of India's history, which calls for a massive reevaluation of the history of humanity • Explores historical occurrence more...
Amazon Says: Dani鬯u's powerful rebuttal to the conventional view of India's history, which calls for a massive reevaluation of the history of humanity • Explores historical occurrences from each major time period starting with the first appearance of man 30,000 years ago • Couples the clarity and perspective of an outsider with the unique and specific knowledge of an insider • By the internationally recognized Hindu scholar and translator of The Complete Kama Sutra (200,000 copies sold) Alain Dani鬯u approaches the history of India from a new perspective--as a sympathetic outsider, yet one who understands the deepest workings of the culture. Because the history of India covers such a long span of time, rather than try to create an exhaustive chronology of dates and events, Dani鬯u instead focuses on enduring institutions that remain constant despite the ephemeral historical events that occur. His selections, synthesis, and narration create a thoroughly engaging and readable journey through time, with a level of detail and comprehensiveness that is truly a marvel. Because of the continuity of its civilization, its unique social system, and the tremendous diversity of cultures, races, languages, and religions that exist in its vast territory, India is like a history museum. Its diverse groups maintained their separate identities and never fully supplanted the culture and knowledge of their predecessors. Even today one may encounter in India primitive Stone Age people whose technology has remained at what is considered prehistoric levels. Thus Dani鬯u's examination of India reveals not only the diversity and historical events and trends of that country, but also the history of all mankind. Through Dani鬯u's history of India we learn from whence we came, what we have discovered over the years in the fields of science, arts, technology, social structures, religions, and philosophical concepts, and what the future may hold for us. less...
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India: A History by John Keay
Amazon Says: Jhon Keay's India: A History is a probing and provocative chronicle of five thousand years of South Asian history, from the first Harrapan settlements on the banks of the Indu more...
Amazon Says: Jhon Keay's India: A History is a probing and provocative chronicle of five thousand years of South Asian history, from the first Harrapan settlements on the banks of the Indus River to the recent nuclear-arms race. In a tour de force of narrative history, Keay blends together insights from a variety of scholarly fields and weaves them together to chart the evolution of the rich tapestry of cultures, religions, and peoples that makes up the modern nations of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.Authoritative and eminently readable, India: A History is a compelling epic portrait of one of the world's oldest and most richly diverse civilizations. less...
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Amazon Says: A handy reference book that provides essential information on an impressive variety of different world religions Readers will learn the history and development of se more...
Amazon Says: A handy reference book that provides essential information on an impressive variety of different world religions Readers will learn the history and development of select word religions in this condensed guide. Religions covered include Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Bahai, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto. The founder and any significant figures in each religion are included, as well as what the core beliefs are, the sacred writings and worship styles, how the religion fits in with family and society, and the contemporary issues it faces today. less...
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Amazon Says: Taking a refreshing new approach to understanding different faiths, World Religions looks at the beliefs and practices of many different religions, including Christianity, Jud more...
Amazon Says: Taking a refreshing new approach to understanding different faiths, World Religions looks at the beliefs and practices of many different religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam. less...
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Amazon Says: Fate takes many forms. . . .   When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of t more...
Amazon Says: Fate takes many forms. . . .   When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together. With all the spirit and originality that made Life of Pi so beloved, this brilliant new novel takes the reader on a haunting odyssey. On the way Martel asks profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.   less...
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Amazon Says: Here are four unforgettable stories by the author of Life of Pi. In the exquisite title novella, a very young man dying of AIDS joins his friend in fashioning a story of the R more...
Amazon Says: Here are four unforgettable stories by the author of Life of Pi. In the exquisite title novella, a very young man dying of AIDS joins his friend in fashioning a story of the Roccamatio family of Helsinki, set against the yearly march of the twentieth century whose horrors and miracles their story echoes. In "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American composer John Morton," a Canadian university student visits Washington, D.C., and experiences the Vietnam War and its aftermath through an intense musical encounter. In "Manners of Dying," variations of a warden's letter to the mother of a son he has just executed reveal how each life is contained in its end. The final story, "The Mirror Machine", is about a young man who discovers an antique mirror-making machine in his grandmother's attic. The man's fascination with the object is juxtaposed with the longwinded reminiscences it evokes from his grandmother. Written earlier in Martel's career, these tales are as moving as they are thought-provoking, as inventive in form as they are timeless in content. They display that startling mix of dazzle and depth that have made Yann Martel an international phenomenon. less...
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Yann Martel On The Illustrated Version Of Life Of Pi
Chantal W. Says: Yann Martel On The Illustrated Version Of Life Of Pi from TVO Ontario's Public Educational Media
YouTube Says: Canada's Yann Martel shot to international fame with his novel "Life of Pi". He won the prestigious Booker Prize and his novel went on to sell six-million copies worldwide and...
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