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10 for the Top 10: Yann Martel answers the Canada Reads Questionnaire

Life of Pi brings to life the unforgettable journey of Pi, a 16-year-old boy whose family is taking their zoo from India to Canada. Disaster strikes and Pi does whatever he can to survive.

Martel weaves together science and religion, fact and fiction in this astounding tale, named the Best Book of the Decade by several media outlets, including the National Post, whose reviewer called it "astounding and beautiful...The book is a pleasure not only for the subtleties of its philosophy but also for its ingenious and surprising story. Martel is a confident, heartfelt artist, and his imagination is cared for in a writing style that is both unmistakable and marvelously reserved." Given these accolades, the Man Booker Prize it took home in 2003 and its strong showing in Canada Reads in 2003, it's no wonder that Yann Martel's career-making masterpiece found its way into this year's Canada Reads Top 10.

Yann Martel Life of Pi

This Saskatoon-based author is synonymous with Canadian literature, having made his name not only with Life of Pi, but with his What Is Stephen Harper Reading? project, which saw him send Prime Minister Stephen Harper a novel every two weeks for nearly three years. His latest novel, Beatrice & Virgil, was published in April 2010, and he's now at work on other projects. But could a second showing on Canada Reads be on the horizon?

Pitch Canada your novel in three lines or less.

Pi Patel, a 16-year-old boy who is a practicing Hindu, Christian and Muslim, is shipwrecked in the Pacific for 227 days. His survival is precarious, his travelling companion murderously dangerous. But he reaches the coast of Mexico, where he meets skeptical investigators.

Which Top 10 book would you want to defend on Canada Reads (other than your own)?

Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.

What's your favourite bookish place in Canada?

The space between my hands, where a book or my keyboard will fit. Thus set up, I can happily browse at McNally Robinson Booksellers or write pretty well anywhere. That's what I like about books, the reading and writing of them: they create an interior space that is independent of the outside world.

Which Canadian author (alive or dead) would you most like to meet?

Malcolm Lowry.

Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

Dante, not the author but the character in the Divine Comedy, because I like road trips.

What did you want to be growing up?

Prime minister of Canada, because the House of Commons struck me as a dazzling theatre. But I gave that up when I realized that I was more interested in writing fiction than public policy.

What would you be if you weren't a writer?

A teacher.

What's your favourite encounter with a reader or most memorable fan moment?

It was a thrill to get a handwritten note from President Obama about Life of Pi.

What book has moved or affected you most in the past year?

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Which Canadian personality do you want to have defend your book?

Stephen Harper.

Life of Pi was originally published in 2001 and is now available through Vintage Canada. It can be found at fine independent bookstores across the country. To find a store near you, click here.

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