Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2002
Pi Patel has been raised in a zoo in India. When his father decides to move the family to Canada and sell the animals to American zoos, everyone boards a Japanese cargo ship. The ship sinks, and 16-year-old Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra with a broken leg, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
Soon it's just Pi, the tiger, and the vast Pacific Ocean - for 227 days. Pi's fear, knowledge, and cunning keep him alive until they reach the coast of Mexico, where the tiger disappears into the jungle. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story, so he tells a second one - more conventional, less fantastic. But is it more true?
A realistic, rousing adventure and meta-tale of survival, Life of Pi explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character claims, to "make you believe in God".
Why we think it's Essential: If you've never been lost in the middle of the ocean, on a small boat filled with wild animals, you have missed a great adventure. Luckily, you have a chance to be transported to that terrifying and wondrous trip through the magic of Martell's writing and Woodman's narration. Whether you are in the car, at the gym, or walking the dog as you listen, you'll begin to feel the rock of the waves against your boat and feel the heat of a tiger's breath on your neck. (Beth Anderson)
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction and its human creators." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"If this century produces a classic work of survival literature, Martel is surely a contender." (The Nation)
"You've read it, right? No? Oh, God, hurry up. Life of Pi is wonderful." (Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly)
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Best audio of the year for me