Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009


Bethany from B&b ex libris is holding the 2nd Orbis Terrarum Challenge. I didn’t join the first one as I was very late, but I had always loved the idea. So this time I’m in!

Choose 10 different books, written by 10 different authors, from 10 different countries. The book goes by the country of origin of the author, or the country he/she lives in. This is a bit different with how my Reading the World challenge works, as I go with the setting of the book, but they can still complement each other.

1 March 2009 to 31 December 2009

I know I’ve been saying that I’m avoiding more challenges, but this one is worth a shot. My tactic now is to shoot for the star and that way I may reach the moon :). I’ll post my list here as I go.

My list of books so far: (I’m not counting any from US or UK, since that’s the majority where the English books are from. Unless I run out of time.)

1) Sugarbabe by Holly Hill (Australia) (finished 03/09, rating 4/5)
2) The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (born in Sweden) (finished 03/09, rating 5/5)
3) Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan) (finished 03/09, rating 3/5)
4) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan) (finished 04/09, rating 4/5)
5) Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) (finished 06/09, rating 4.5/5)
6) Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (South Africa) (finished 06/09, rating 4.5/5)
7) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (USA) (finished 08/09, rating 5/5) Note: Counting this book despite my initial intention to not count books from USA, because it’s thick with historical and cultural descriptions of the country
8) Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan) (finished 08/09, rating 3/5)
x) Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (Japan) (finished 08/09, rating 3/5)
9) Silk by Alessandro Baricco (Italy) (finished 09/09, rating 4/5)
x) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (USA) (finished 09/09, rating 4/5)
x) Strangers by Taichi Yamada (Japan) (finished 09/09, rating 2.5/5)
10) If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (Cuba/Italia) (finished 11/09, rating 3.5/5)

This year’s: March reviews | April reviews | May reviews | June reviews | July reviews | August reviews | September reviews | October reviews | November reviews

You could check out the list of reviews that Bethany has accumulated from the previous challenge. I’m sure there are a lot of great books there.

But wait! It doesn’t end here! Apparently there are some mini challenges around Orbis Terrarum. And there are a couple that I’m also interested in.


Orbis Terrarum Film Mini Challenge challenges you to watch 10 films, 10 different countries, by 10 different directors in 10 months. Again, it has to go by the origin or residence of the director. This is somewhat a challenge and not for me. There are a few countries that I sometimes watch the movies from (e.g. Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, India). But not others. So we’ll see how much I can expand my film horizon.

The films I’ve watched:


1) The Cave of the Yellow Dog (Director: Byambasuren Davaa, Mongolia/German, 2005): A beautiful movie about the life of a family of a nomad in Mongolia. The details of their everyday life are most interesting.


2) Ghost in the Shell (Director: Mamoru Oshii, Japan, 1995): An anime about cyborgs and future world. Told to be the anime who inspired the Matrix. I wasn’t impressed, but then, I never liked the Matrix.


Pom Poko (Director: Isao Takahata, Japan, 1994): is one CUTE anime! As you probably know, Japanese people often believe that foxes and raccoons are shape-shifters. In this movie, we get to know a community of raccoons who have to fight human development that keep pushing away and destroying their home forest. They do everything they can, including shape-shifting to fool the humans. It gets sadder and more serious towards the end, but it’s inevitable as the reality hits.


Only Yesterday (Director: Isao Takahata, Japan, 1991 in Japan, 2006 in Australia/UK): This anime is also by Studio Ghibli, and the same director as Pom Poko. They’re very different though. Only Yesterday is a story about the 27 year old unmarried Taeko, who decides to visit countryside where her distant family is. During the trip Taeko’s reminiscences brought her back to 5th grade. It’s simple story about childhood, innocence, growing up, and keeping up with adulthood. The art style is realistic and very pretty at that.


3) Secret Sunshine (Director: Lee Chang-Dong, South Korea, 2007): tells the journey of a woman who has lost her husband, and later on her son. How she struggles with life, faith and God. It won the Best Actress at Festival de Cannes (which the thing that attracted me when I saw the cover). It is a sad and sometimes slow going movie with open-ending, but it’s believable and the main actress is great.


4) Summer Hours (Director: Olivier Assayas, France, 2009 in Australia): A French movie about heritage and loss of it. To be honest, I found it boring, though I didn’t yawn as much as I probably would have normally. It’s probably the language was such a barrier that I didn’t feel connected to the characters and the topic was pretty lame in this recession time. Two brothers and a sister was left with a big mansion, valuable, paintings and furniture, of a deceased well known painter who inherited his wealth to the sibling’s mother (who then died too). The oldest brother would like to keep things intact, mostly for sentimental reasons, while his younger siblings don’t feel the same because of their different circumstances. The younger brother has been living in China and will continue to, possibly for more years, and the younger sister is looking to get married and move to USA. So both of them prefer to sell everything. The big brother has no choice but to do what the majority wants to. There’s not much drama or humour. It’s a very quiet movie that is probably for people who ever feel the loss of their heritage.


Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Director: Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 1986 in Japan, 1989 in USA): The movie opens with an attack scene of a bunch of pirates to a flying plane. A girl tries to run away and she drops to the earth. Magically her necklace glows and she floats nicely to arms of a young boy, Pazu. Later on they find out that both the pirates and another group of people on the plane want to capture the girl, who of course will be the key to find Laputa, the Castle in the Sky. The movie is cute and comical. I think the audience would definitely fall in love with the adorable bunch of sky pirates, who consist of a big bust grandma who the other pirates call Mama. The only thing that I feel lacking is the depth of history of the Laputa. I feel like it’s something that can be developed a lot further and deeper. They also spend very little time at the castle itself, spending most of the time running away and hiding (which serves a lot of the comical moments).

5) Not One Less (Director: Zhang Yimou, China, 1999)

6) My Year Without Sex (Director: Sarah Watt, Australia, 2009)


That’s not all! Orbis Terrarum Bilingual Mini Challenge challenges you to read 5 books in their original languages by 5 different authors in 10 months (or 10 different short stories or 10 children’s chapter books). I have a few Indonesian books and quite a few more of Japanese children books. I’d be interesting to keep track of what I read and have some kind of mini reviews. Until now I’ve never reviewed a non-English book before.

Gosh, did I just put myself into not one, but three challenges? Well I know I’ll have fun with them :)

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10 thoughts on “Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009”

  1. YAY! Glad you joined. Remember that your books can overlap, your bilingual challenge books can be ones you read for the main OT challenge as well. You probably already knew that…but just in case.

    I am glad you are excited about the challenge, I can’t wait to see what all you challengers read and watch and review.

    I just put up a place where you can post a link to your review when you are ready. That way we can all keep in touch with eachother and visit eachother’s blogs to comment.

    Again, welcome and make sure you let me know if you have any questions or comments!!

  2. No it didn’t cross my mind that the bilingual challenge books can also be the ones we read for the main OT challenge. I was thinking for only English books for the main challenge. Anyway, glad you told me. And thanks for the welcome ;)

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