Life of Pi: Food for Thought


Electra Street encourages those of you who are reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi as part of the “Abu Dhabi Reads” program to share your thoughts and questions with the rest of us. Please leave a question or a thought about the book below.

But … no spoilers please! Don’t reveal how the book turns out in consideration of your fellow readers who haven’t quite finished it yet.

Commenters will be entered in a drawing to win passes for two to the movies. You can use them to see Life of Pi when it opens later this fall (21 November in the USA, 20 December worldwide).

[Image by Yzabelle Wuthrich]

Abu Dhabi Reads Life of Pi

Abu Dhabi Reads Life of Pi

Join us for the first-ever “Abu Dhabi Reads” event!

“Abu Dhabi Reads” is very simple: come together as a community to read, enjoy, and think about a shared book.

For our inaugural program, our readers chose Life of Pi by Yann Martel. (Thank you to everyone who participate in our poll!)  This novel, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2002, tells the story of Piscine Molitor Patel — Pi, for short — who is shipwrecked in the Indian Ocean with only a Bengal Tiger for company.  What happens to Pi, and the tiger, will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished the book.

You can get a copy of this wonderful, thought-provoking novel from Magrudy’s and at other bookstores around the Emirates that sell English-language books. It’s also available on Kindle at

Spend the rest of October reading the novel, and then join us for a free public discussion from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on November 1 at the NYU Abu Dhabi Downtown Campus.  Refreshments will be served.

So grab a copy, tell a friend, get reading, and join us for we trust will be a lively conversation about the novel. Check back here each Sunday before the event for commentary on the novel and questions for thought. Electra Street will also host commentary after our live event for readers who want to participate but aren’t able to attend on November 1.

Refreshments will be served, so please click here to RSVP on the Institute’s website.

Readers are invited to participate in our pre-event online forum, “Life of Pi: Food for Thought.” Click here and leave a comment. You’ll be entered in a drawing for movie passes.

(The image above is taken from the publicity poster for Ang Lee’s 3D film adaptation of the novel, which premiered at the New York Film Festival on 28 September, opens in the US on November 21, and in Abu Dhabi on December 20.)

Abu Dhabi Reads – The Finalists

Abu Dhabi Reads – The Finalists

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.

CFI: Abu Dhabi Reads

CFI: Abu Dhabi Reads

CALL FOR IDEAS — Updated 27 April

Electra Street invites you to suggest titles for the first annual “Abu Dhabi Reads” project. Based on the popular “One Book” programs that are sponsored by libraries across the United States, “Abu Dhabi Reads” is designed to bring people together around a shared reading experience for no other than reason to promote discussion and to exchange ideas. “Abu Dhabi Reads” is for everyone — not only NYUAD faculty, staff, and students, but also the larger Abu Dhabi community.

We invite your suggestions for a “good read.” From those suggestions, we will choose three finalists and the conduct an online poll that will enable interested readers to determine our first selection. Next fall, Electra Street will sponsor a series of discussions and talks about the book you’ve chosen.

We’re particularly interested in texts that are available both in English and in Arabic. To make a suggestion, please leave a comment on this post. If you prefer, you may send your suggestion via e-mail to with the subject line “Abu Dhabi Reads.”

To make a suggestion, please leave a comment on this post. If you prefer, you may send your suggestion via e-mail to with the subject line “Abu Dhabi Reads.”

Here’s a list of titles suggested so far:

Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven [Info]
Turki al-Hamad, Adama trilogy [Info]
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451 [Info]
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities [Info]
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks [Info]
George Orwell, 1984 [Info]
Keija Parssinen, The Ruins of Us [Review]
Daniel Quinn, Ishmael [Info]
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind [Original title: La Sombra del Viento] [Review]

Keep those suggestions coming!