Commuter Reading Group: The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (audio edition)


Discussion Questions by Dave Lemley

1. Did you listen to the audio version, or just read the paper book? If you read the book visually, how did that affect your driving? If you dropped the book in the passenger floorboard, did you pull over, or just try to reach for it when things slowed down? How did that work out?

2. What’s the worst thing that ever happened to your mother? Feel free to make something up. (Leader’s note: this last question will give you time to pee or get coffee if you showed up late to the meeting.)

3. When you got to the part where the other floating survivor bumps into Pi in the night, did you have to rewind to be sure you hadn’t missed something? Did you ever find your place again? Is that when you quit the book and started listening to Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, instead? How would the book have ended if Pi had a copy of The Secret on that life raft? Remember: tigers can’t even read, so he wouldn’t even have known what The Secret was.

4. Do you think someone in your carpool could have read it to you? Discuss how reading books together while driving might save the environment. What if someone read you the book while you were driving from an e-book on their handheld device? How many trees do you think would be saved? Or commuter minutes? Ozones?

5. How would the book have been different if the orangutan had known sign language? Would it have made you more interested in zoos? Can an ape who learns the sign for “I love you” truly comprehend love or is has she just learned the trick that elicits the most bananas?

6. Pi liked to say, “my suffering was so great.” Pretty much all the time. Did you ever drive through for a milkshake or Jack-in-the-Box egg rolls during the parts where he talked about being so hungry? Was it out of empathy, or sheer spite? How did you know Pi wasn’t about to talk about a disemboweled orangutan or gutting a fish/turtle, while you were eating? What foods do you find you can eat in the car without making a mess?

7. If the story Pi tells to his rescuers at the end of the book was the true story, why do you think Yann Martel made up all that crap about the floating acid island? Was he just trying to ride the coattails of the recent surge in meerkat popularity? Was Meerkat Manor before or after The Life of Pi came out? How does life on Meerkat Manor compare to life on Meerkat Floating Acid Island? Wouldn’t you probably watch Animal Planet more if they had that show? What do you think the meerkats on Meerkat Manor symbolize?

8. Do you think you’ll see the movie? What are some ideas you have that might spice up the boring parts and/or keep it shorter than Lord of the Rings? Are there actors that could be cast as Pi that might make all the gross and boring parts more sexy or provocative? Wouldn’t Sean Astin be cute? What if, at the end, Pi was rescued by hobbits? Or near the middle?

9. Do you think life rafts should be equipped with guns? What about other weapons, self-help books, or Apple products? How about wireless internet? GPS? Break into partners, and make up more stuff for a lifeboat, and then rewrite the book with those items, plus whatever lead actor you chose in the last question. How does your new book improve on the original? (Leader’s note: if you need more coffee or want to make a phone call, now is the time.)


3 thoughts on “Commuter Reading Group: The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (audio edition)

  1. Gabe says:

    Remember, Dave, that people wanted Captain Packard to play Professor X for years before it actually happened. So your mention of Sean Astin could actually influence producers in a “Snakes On a Plane” kind of way.

  2. David Caruso says:

    What’s the deal with Sean Astin? Come on, people, you treat him like royalty. Well, he’s not royalty. He’s more like the mayor.

    The mayor of Tiny Town.

    (Did you feel that little swish of my sunglasses? Yeah, I’m that good. Check me out on Wikipedia.)

  3. Robin Williams says:

    I should play the tiger! Just as long as they write me a song to sing once we’re on the raft. Something funny about how we’ll be friends as long you feed me: “Catch a tiger by a toe / Catch me a fish or you’re a dead man, bro!” Something edgy like that, preferably with music by Elton John.

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