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FYE Common Reader (2013-2014): Life of Pi: The Book: Life of Pi

A guide for faculty and First Year Experience students on the common reader, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Key Facts

Title:  Life of Pi

Author:   Yann Martel

Publisher:  New York: Harcourt; Canada: Knopf

Date Published:   2001

Genre:   Novel

Language:  English; translated into 41 languages

Setting: India, Canada, Pacific Ocean, Mexico

Copies sold: more than 7 million

Awards:  Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, 2001; Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 2002; Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, 2001-2003; South Africa Boeke Prize, 2003

Rejected by at least 5 London publishers before being accepted by Knopf, Canada. [wikipedia April 23, 2013]
Adapted into a theatrical feature film, directed by Ang Lee, screenplay by David Magee, 2012
Bestseller:  New York Times; Angeles Times; Washington Post; San Francisco Chronicle; Chicago Tribune

Reading Level

Interest Level:             Grades 10 - 12
Reading Level:            Grade level Equivalent: 7.2
Lexile Measure®:         830L [Oct. 18, 2013]

Setting - Map

 Pondicherry, India;   the Pacific Ocean;   Mexico;   Canada

Life of Pi: Introduction

Life of Pi: Summary

Life of Pi: Characters

Life of Pi: Themes

Life of Pi: Top 10 Questions


Human and animal relationships
Meaning of life
Mortality and death


Adirubasamy, Francis

business contact of Pi's father; champion swimmer; "uncle"   of Pi; introduces Pi to author


Pi's foster mother in Toronto


unnamed in the text; chapters in italics

Chiba, Asuro

junior colleague at the Maritime Department in Japanese Ministry   Transport.


blind man, the cook (Hyena)

Kumar, Satish

biology teacher; atheist

Kumar, Satish

baker; Muslim

Martin, Father

priest in Munnar; introduces Pi to Christianity

Okamonto, Tomohiro

member of Maritime Department in Japanese Ministry Transport;   interviews Pi in Mexico about sinking of Tsimtsum

Orange Juice

orangutan (Pi's mother)

Parker, Richard

Bengal tiger

Patel, Gita

Pi's mother (Orange Juice)

Patel, Meena

Pi's wife in Canada

Patel, Nikhil

Pi's son

Patel, Piscine Molitor (Pi)

narrator and lead character

Patel, Ravi

Pi's brother

Patel, Sanatosh

Pi's father; zookeeper

Patel, Usha

Pi's daughter

Rohini, Aunti

Pi's aunt; mother's sister; takes Pi to Hindu temple


Pi's favorite zookeeper

Taiwanese sailor

sad and lonely Chinese boy (Zebra)



Good Morning America's Q&A with the Author


Questions sent to ABC Good Morning America for Yann Martel. Life of Pi was the selection in Good Morning America's "Read This!" book club series, August 22, 2003.

( May 4, 2013)


NPR Interview with Yann Martel

"Host John Ydstie talks to Canadian author Yann Martel about his novel Life of Pi, which won Britain's Mann-Booker Prize this year. It's a meditation on the role of religion in modern life; the story's main character is a practicing Muslim, Christian and Hindu."

[ April 23, 2013]

Plagiarism Accusation

"At the height of the book’s popularity, there was a short-lived scandal involving an accusation of plagiarism. Martel has acknowledged that he thought of the premise after reading a review of the English translation of Moacyr Scliar’s Max and the Cats; the Brazilian press accused Martel of cribbing that book. The similarities between the books, however, are few, and nothing came of the charges." [   April 24, 2013]

Tiger in a Lifeboat, Panther in a Lifeboat: A Furor Over a Novel, by Larry Rohter,The New York Times: Nov. 6, 2002 [September 27, 2012]

Life of Pi (Movie trailer)

Based upon the novel;  from Academy Award Winning Director Ang Lee, starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Tabu. Movie released on 23rd November 2012.

[May 4, 2013]

Using the Film

Damaris Media, an educational charity, creates community resources for feature films that engages the community with themes and ideas about the films.  A Leader's Guide can be downloaded.  Themes explored in Life of Pi include:
What Does It Mean to Be Human?
Can We Decide What to Believe?
In Search of Meaning         
Meaning of Hope
The Meaning of Truth
The Meaning of Faith
[October 15, 2013]

9 Big Differences between the Life of Pi Movie and Book, by Jessica Rawden.



[October 15, 2013]