And then there were three.

Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions to us for the “Abu Dhabi Reads” program, which will take place at 5:00 p.m. on November 1 at NYUAD’s Downtown Campus. The event will be an open-ended discussion of one of the following three books: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; Life of Pi by Yann Martel; and The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen.

We invite you to help us choose the book that we’ll read and discuss together by by clicking on this link and voting for one of these three finalists. The form will take mere seconds to fill out and your response will be completely anonymous. You’ll have the opportunity to suggest a book for our spring program, though that isn’t required. Voting ends at 11:00 p.m. GST on September 23, so don’t delay!

Feel free to vote even if you can’t join us in Abu Dhabi on November 1. We’ll be hosting online discussions before and after the live event here on Electra Street.

To help you make your decision, we’ve included brief descriptions of each book. Clicking on a title will bring you to the page for the book, which contains additional information. All three books are available in Kindle format (though you’ll need to sign into your account to locate them).

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953 and now an American classic, tells the story of fireman Guy Montag, who is living in a nightmarish future.

Montag’s job is not to protect houses from flames, but to locate and burn books and their owners, with the help of a fiendish Mechanical Hound. It is a time when people do not walk the streets or talk to each other, but instead spend their leisure hours lulled into unthinking stupors by four walls of television screens and constant music in their ears. World wars are ongoing, and suicide rates are high.

When Montag realizes how terribly unhappy he, his wife, and everyone around them are, he turns to a secret stash of books and an old friend, putting both of their lives at risk. Bradbury’s novel vividly evokes a world just similar enough to our own to force us to consider the risks of fast-paced mass media and censorship while reflecting on the true value not only of literature and knowledge but of friendship.

— Jennifer Acker


Life of Pi by Yann Martell

Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize, Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, is a story, as its narrator says, “to make you believe in God.” Questions of faith and belief—as well as truth, narrative, and the proper way to tame a tiger—are at the core of this novel, in which Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi, for short) finds himself shipwrecked and adrift, floating in a lifeboat with no one but a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company.

When Pi Patel, with his family and the animals from the zoo the family managed in Pondicherry, India, set sail from India to Canada, Pi has no idea how dramatically his life will shift, just as readers have no idea, when they start the novel, what surprises await them in the novel’s second half. By the end of the novel, we have to re-examine our ideas about truth and fiction, about faith and belief … and about tigers.

This acclaimed novel has been made into a film, directed by Ang Lee, which will premiere later this month at the New York Film Festival, with a US release on 21 November and a worldwide release in late December.

— Deborah Lindsay Williams


The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen

Why do people stay married? Or rather, how do people stay married? What series of compromises and alliances, conflicts and peace-makings, goes into a marriage that lasts for decades? Is there a point at which, even after ten, twenty, thirty years, one or the other partner decides that enough is enough?

These questions are at the center of Kejia Parssinen’s debut novel, The Ruins of Us. The novel is set in Saudi Arabia and focuses on the marriage of Saudi-born American, Rosalie March, and her handsome, powerful Saudi husband, Abdullah al-Baylani.  After decades of making her peace with the tenets of Islam that govern Saudi society, Rosalie confronts a cultural difference that explodes her complacency. Her progressive, educated husband has taken a second wife—and kept the marriage a secret for two years, even though the woman lives just down the road from Rosalie, in a house that Abdi bought for her.  The crisis in the al-Baylani marriage precipitates a crisis for the entire family, which, in turn, illustrates the fissures that run through contemporary Saudi culture.  The al-Baylanis have two children, Faisal and Mariam, whose attitudes reflect the complexities of modern life, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, particularly in terms of whether or not we can ever hope to understand people from cultures other than our own.  The novel offers unexpected and thought-provoking answers to this question.

Deborah Lindsay Williams

You can also use this link to vote! Remember: voting ends at 11:00 p.m. GST on September 23.

This program is co-sponsored by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.