2019 – Oh Wow! I’ve got a blog!

2019. The pope visits Abu Dhabi, Captain Marvel hits the theaters, the Beresheet probe reaches the moon, and I read an insane amount of books and start a blog. Yes, there was also President Trump recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and the Likud winning an election (again!), but I started a blog – a blog about the Omer.

Let me back up a bit. My name is Yehoshua Paul. I’m a father of two adorable and hyperactive children, ages 5 and 22 months, married to the talented woman who designed this site, and I’m a bibliophile. Seriously! It’s a serious problem. I’ve got a library with almost two thousand books, which I’ve been working on since age 10, when I bought “Pool of Radiance” by James M. Ward and Jane Cooper Hong.

My first book

Books are a pretty big part of my life – literally. We’ve moved apartments four times, and the books take up as many if not more boxes than all our other possessions. Currently the upper half of our apartment is my office and books – mine, my wife’s, my kids, and also the many books I inherited from my grandfather, F. M. Richard Simons, z”l.

Around half my library

Why am I telling you this? Because when I decided to create a series of 49 posts covering the Omer, I knew it was going to be about books.

Every year, Jews around the world count the 49 days of the Omer from Passover to Shavuot. It’s a ritual that we have been observing for thousands of years, and one that’s often a pain to remember. I’ve lost count of the number of times, I accidentally skipped a night and didn’t remember until several days later (I have a hard enough time remembering to get on the right train home from work), and I know I’m not alone in this. Thank god social media was invented to remind me!

In recent years, there has been a trend to create a series of themed posts for counting the Omer. There have been posts about the periodic elements, beards, or geek fandom in general, and these posts help us remember to count.

This year, after a chance conversation with a friend, I decided it was time for me to create my own series of posts to help infuse meaning into the Omer. These posts needed to be about something, I knew and knew well – books!

But not just, any books. These books had to connect to days 1-49 of the Omer in a way that made sense. After thinking about it for a little bit I came up with the years 1901-1949, the first half of the twentieth century, a period which included colonialism, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression, the founding of Israel, two world wars, and also lots of books!

And this gave me an idea for my series of posts. I would read 49 books (or short stories) that were written during the years 1901-1949, and then publish on a daily basis a post about the year, the author, the book, and how they all connect to the Omer of that day, my #seferhaomer series.

The books I chose are science fiction, fantasy, alternative fiction, horror, and children’s fantasies. Some of these books have helped shape the genres they were written in, others are obscure treasures I uncovered while researching the series, and a tiny minority of them were learning mistakes. The series encompasses titans, such as Jules Verne, H. P. Lovecraft, and J. R. R. Tolkien, alongside more obscure geniuses, such as James Cabell, Hope Mirrlees, and Lynd Ward. In choosing these books, I tried to go for as much variety as possible, and include multiple perspectives from a wide range of cultures. There will be a Communist utopia on Mars and a feminist utopia without men. I am going to write about the story of the Exodus from an Egyptian perspective, about a wordless novel, a mythology which is not Tolkien’s and a series of letters written by a senior demon, and these are just the first taste! Several of these books are translations from different languages, and I read some of them in Hebrew.

“The journey of 49 days begins with a single book”. I look forward to starting this journey with you. And when it’s over (or even before), you’re welcome to visit me in my library, and sit down and enjoy lots of good books.