Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Chag Kasher V'Shakesmeach!

 Table of contents

(jump to any section you like; I'm not twisting your arm to read *all* of this):

1) Insane, electric coverage for The Shakespeare Haggadah
2) An article answering why I do parody haggadot in the first place
3) My chag sameach wishes for you and yours
4) Zaidy's War, waiting in the wings.


You'll please pardon the silly wordplay in the subject of this e-mail. I've been giddy with the coverage The Shakespeare Haggadah has gotten this season. It's been in everything, everywhere, all at once.

Out of the blocks, it reached shelves in places no book of mine has ever reached before, including Walmart, Target, gift shops in Jewish Museums in the northeast, and get this, Harvard University's library. I'm an Ivy Leaguer!

The roster of articles and interviews, includes, but is not limited to (because I may actually have missed a few):
  1. JNS.org: https://www.jns.org/nay-leavend-bread-shalt-beest-eaten-author-martin-bodek-has-a-shakespearean-twist-on-passover/, picked up by The Jewish Exponent (Staten Island), Columbus Jewish News, Cleveland Jewish News, L'chaim Magazine (San Diego), Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jewish Ledger (Connecticut), and the wildest of them all, Christians for Israel International.
  2. The Jewish News of Northern California: https://jweekly.com/2023/03/28/ai-rushes-in-but-the-best-of-2023s-new-haggadahs-are-human-made/
  3. Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/shakespeare-at-the-seder-author-writes-passover-haggadah-as-the-bard-would-have/, picked up by Qoshe.com, JewishNews.com, Alberta Jewish news, and TheWorldNews.net
  4. The Jewish Chronicle: https://www.thejc.com/news/news/to-dip-or-not-to-dip-the-shakespeare-haggadah-2PgR4h8OW6T03SryDOalW7
  5. Jewish Journal: https://jewishjournal.com/judaism/holidays/357462/why-is-this-haggadah-different-from-all-others/
  6. The St. Louis Jewish Light: https://stljewishlight.org/our-jewish-learning/3-different-ideas-for-you-next-passover-haggadah/
  7. Jewish Rhode Island: https://www.jewishrhody.com/stories/a-haggadah-for-everyone,31943
  8. The Jewish Link: https://jewishlink.news/features/58511-the-haggadah-still-a-template-for-jewish-creativity
  9. Yahoo: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/looking-haggadah-fits-family-11-164653582.html, picked up by Parade, Gossip Chimp, Clayton News Daily, Henry Herald, Kilgore News Herald, Tyler Morning Telegraph, Longview News-Journal, Victoria, Longview, Panola Watchman (they love me in Texas!), and The Rockdale Citizen.
  10. Finally, last night I was a guest on New York Shakespeare's Instagram Live show, which was a blast: https://www.instagram.com/p/CqmPZMiqbqR/
So if you're keeping track, The Shakespeare Haggadah was covered by press in 4 countries (U.S. Israel, UK, Canada), and 10 states.

I couldn't have done any of this without an enormous media push from my publisher, Wicked Son Books, and superhuman efforts by my Fairy Godpublicist, Judy Tashbook Safern. Thank you, guys!


I've been doing a lot of talking lately, and the number 1 question I get is: why? So I wrote a long-winded answer that I'm happy to present to you. I didn't send it to any news outlet because it's more of a personal response, so consider this an exclusive:

Ask Not Why I Write Parody Haggadot; Ask for Whom


Martin Bodek

I recently published the second folio of The Shakespeare Haggadah, and the question I’ve been most frequently receiving is, “Why?”

To this, I reply, “Can you phrase that in Elizabethan English, please?”

As the questioner stammers back with “Whyeth?” or “Whyfore?”, I then volunteer a little bit of history, so that they understand the full picture, and I launch into an elevator speech that goes something like this:

Deep breath, aaaaaaaaand:

A long time ago, in a galaxy right here haggadot were generally gorgeously-wrought masterpieces of artistic expression. This “era,” if you will, lasted for hundreds of years. This gave way to an era of less artistic – albeit highly useful – proliferation thanks to the godsend of the printing press. After this time came the next era of customized haggadot for all manner of movements, religious stripes, causes, activism, and advocacy. On the heels of this push came the late-20th century surge of scholarly works, which dove deeper into the text, and then deeper still. At the turn of the 21st century a new age began: the age of wildly creative versions of the classic haggadah, both those hewing to the original text and those departing, but with imagination and innovation.

Aaaaaaaaaand exhale.

I created The Shakespeare Haggadah in this era, which is still thriving, and looks like it will last a while. As a gentleman named Albert Einstein once said, “Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

I estimate – and this is debatable – that this era kicked off in 2007, when both Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah and 30 Minute Seder: The Haggadah That Blends Brevity With Tradition were published. The former targeted children’s interests; the latter targeted anyone whose attention span was shrinking along with the rest of human culture. Both perpetually rank rather high on Amazon.

This was immediately followed by the publication of Joyous Haggadah: A Children and Family Cartoon Haggadah, which continued to lay the groundwork for including children, and pulling them back and towards the seder table.

More haggadot continued to get published over the next decade that specifically targeted children, tweens, and teens, but the years 2017-2019 experienced an explosion of creativity and inclusivity.

These were, by my count and opinion: The excellent The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah, The all-encompassing Welcome to the Seder: A Passover Haggadah for Everyone, the fully-inclusive The Kveller Haggadah: A Seder for Curious Kids (and their Grownups), and the gobsmackingly- beautiful The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel.

Each of these mightily served further to invite and urge and welcome the entire family back to the seder table, with eagerness aroused by the new creative expressions they could hold in their hands and inhale with wonder while the master of ceremonies carried on with his duties.

Into this window of opportunity, I like to think that my The Emoji Haggadah helped to usher this movement along. My purpose was the same that had been established with the rest of the excellent new expressions: get that seder table brimming again, and the family talking, and enjoying, and geshmak-ing. The Emoji Haggadah still does very well, and it remains – as of this writing – the first, and still only, book written entirely in emoji. If that doesn’t get your children’s attention, perhaps my next three haggadot will.

I then published The Festivus Haggadah, targeting Gen X’s interest, and, surprisingly, Gen Y, who love Seinfeld and Friends, for some wildly inexplicable reason that escapes me.

I then published The Coronavirus Haggadah, because humanity needed comic relief in a bad way.

Finally, I wrote The Shakespeare Haggadah specifically for teenagers and college youth, because, in my view, they remain the most underserved market for haggadot. The adults have been catered to for almost a millennium; the children for at least a decade and half; let’s do something for our teens.

I have more haggadot in the works, and the answer to the original question posed is now very simple, after all this has been explained. The sum of the matter is: I write parody haggadot to enrich everyone’s seder, to promote inclusion for everyone, to foster family harmony, and to create a fun, loving atmosphere for my Jewish people, to the best of my ability and the talent given me.

Chag kasher v’sameach!

Mar­tin Bodek is the author of The Emo­ji Hag­gadahThe Fes­tivus Hag­gadahThe Coro­n­avirus Haggadah, the recent­ly re-pub­lished The Shake­speare Hag­gadah, several future haggadot and seven oth­er books.


It's been an amazing season for me, as you can imagine. The Festivus Haggadah continues to benefit from its natural dual-holiday sales seasons (Festivus/Passover), The Coronavirus Haggadah still supplies comic relief, and The Emoji Haggadah is showing up in bookstores all over Israel (I know because friends keep sending "shelfies" with the book).

I'm thankful; I'm grateful; I feel accomplished.

I'd like to use this positive energy to wish you and yours an enriching and enervating, wonderful and winsome, innovative and imaginative, uplifting and upbeat, meaningful and memorable, invigorating and inspiring, familial and fantastic chag sameach.


P.S. Haggadah season is a wonderful diversion, but once Passover is over, I'm going to throw myself into continuing to push Zaidy's War into the public consciousness. It's my most serious and most important work.

It's done well out of the gate, with excerpts appearing in Jew in the City, Aish.com, and FJJ, reviews pending in The Jewish Press among other outlets, more reviews on Amazon and Goodreads than I've received for any of my previous work, blogger and TikTok reviews, and talks in interesting places. I'm scheduled to speak to 5th and 6th graders on Yom Hashoah, and I'm looking forward to the meaningful experience.

So, thank you for making it this far, and I'd like to please ask you, if I may, to a) send me pics of my haggadot if they happen to adorn your seder table b) review my books online once this crazy season is over, and c) consider/recommend me as a speaker for fun things like haggadot, and serious things like Zaidy's War.

Thank you very much!

-Martin (Mordechi) Bodek

Monday, February 06, 2023

#1, Twice

 The Shakespeare Haggadah is #1 in 2 Amazon categories. This is a 1st for me and it’s very cool.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

I Have a Guardian Angel

 Well look at this lovely surprise I found in this week’s The Jewish Link - Expanded Edition! Somebody on the staff is my Guardian Angel, and I have no idea who that is. I do intend to find out…

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

My First Publishing Award!

I wonneth an award! an honest-to-goodness award! According to the prestigious New York Shakespeare group, The Shakespeare Haggadah is the most wondrous Shakespeare Giftable and Novelty of 2022. Not third most wondrous, not second, first! Oh, how sweet 'tis! I thanketh thee kindly for this recognition, and the flattering commentary.


A Milestone Number of Ratings

Well that's another nifty little milestone. I've cranked out 11 books over the past 13 years, and despite Zaidy's War being only 3.5 months old, it has already garnered more ratings than any of my previous efforts; 3 times as many as 2nd place, in fact.

I thank you all for your interest, and for your feedback. Please keep that coming.


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Zaidy's Breathtaking Act of Kindness

 Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day. To honor the day in an appropriate manner, I shopped Zaidy's War's "Lovingkindness" chapter, and found a perfect taker at aish.com.

Essentially, an organization known for promoting lovingkindness, practiced an act of lovingkindness by featuring a chapter of Zaidy's War called "A Tale of Lovingkindness." I'm loving kindness. Zaidy believed in it as a form of Tikkun Olam (Repairing of the World), and I believe in it too.
Please read it here:


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

My First Booktok Review!

I have finally joined the 3rd decade of the 21st century by actually having an in-the-flesh, gen-u-wine, for-realz TikToker review Zaidy's War. No FOMO, lolz:

Thank you for your Booktok, E.G., and for your thorough pen-on-paper review as well!:


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Siyum for Zaidy

Hadran aluch Maseches Nedarim! (We shall return to you, Tractate Nedarim) In honor of Zaidy.

Now why is this one in honor of Zaidy? Easy: he told me to, in a dream.
Not kidding, hear me out.
If you've read the introduction to Zaidy's War, you will have perhaps noted that during the process of finishing the book, Zaidy would visit me in dreams often. He would never speak to me. Instead, repeatedly, I would dream that we were walking down the street together, and he would get compliments from folks poking their heads out of their houses. The metaphor of this sequence of dreams is pretty clear.
However, on Thanksgiving night, Zaidy finally spoke to me after years of silence.
I dreamed that I was sitting at my desk, when Zaidy approached me, and we had this encounter:
Zaidy: I understand you're learning Nedarim.
Me: Yes.
Zaidy: Very nice. This one you can learn for me.
Me: I will!
And I woke! After morning routine, I checked a few calendars, and wouldn't you know it, Zaidy's 9th yahrzeit falls out on the same exact day as the end of the masechte! That day is today, and my learning is in honor of R. Benzion ben R. Aharon, because he adjured me to do so, and I did. He made me make a neder, after all, and I think that's very clever of him.
May his neshama have an aliyah.

Monday, January 09, 2023

My first DNF, or The Shortest Marathon Race Report I’ll Ever Write

 It should be obvious from the title of this article that I won’t be asking for your attention for an extended period of time. I didn’t finish the 2022 NYC Marathon, and I prepared for that inevitability going in, for reasons that will be clear very shortly. I’ve been through a lot.

This is what goes down:
3:30 AM: Wakey wakey!
3:35 AM: Dressy dressy!
5:00 AM: Pickup from my good man David and our annual chauffer de excellence, Michael.
6:00 AM: Arrive at Ford Wadsworth, locate minyan, hang out for a while, reminisce with old friends, take selfies and otheries, miss the biggest Marathon Minyan class photo ever because I was in the porta-potty.
8:20 AM: Enter my corral, find a seat on a curb, fret over how the day will unfold, wish the helicopters would stop hovering directly over the runners.
9:15 AM: While in position waiting for the start, a runner named Bridget approaches me to wish me luck as I try out a marathon for the first time on my new hip (that little factoid is on a bib on my back). I thank her, and she casually mentions that she broke her femur during a marathon two years ago, and this was her comeback race too. Aghast, I ask her how she knew it was broken. She says she knew. She heard the crack like a gunshot, and felt it too. Then it took too long for her to get medical help. Holy moly. I wish her luck, turn around, and right in front of me is the record-holder for most NYC Marathons completed: Mr. Dave Obelkevich. At the opening bell, he’s got 45; I’ve got 22. I make his acquaintance as I did last year, and advise him that I’m still coming for his record. He wishes me the best, but judging from his prima facie fitness, he’s not gonna stop doing this for years. Grrr.
Mile 0: Kerboom! And we’re off! I’m immediately surrounded by my little sub-club of Streakers (those who have done 15 or more NYC marathons). Matter of fact, I’m part of an even more exclusive club: Streakers on New Hips Now Resigned to Walking. There’s a lot more of us than you think. In Yiddish we’re called Alter Krachers. I’m a proud member at a young age. The numbers on the back of the Streaker bibs are video-game ridiculous and get lots of comments from the Non-Streaker contingent.
Mile 0.1: Mary Wittenberg herself comes up behind me and wishes me luck with my new hip. Awesome.
Mile 1: Already there are very few people behind me. We’re the back group of the first wave of the day. Anybody faster than a snail is long gone and already enjoying Brooklyn. Me and my slow lane people? We’re tight.
Mile 1.9: There’s this thing I like to do at this point in the marathon: I like to approach the first cheerleading person I find on the course and thank them for coming out. It’s usually a little kid who’s thrilled with the recognition. This year, at least 20 Gen Zers are lined up, but all are staring into their phones. I’ll reserve comment because it’s slander, but the first guy who’s actually not staring into his phone is holding up a sign that says “Welcome to Brooklyn.” I turn around to take a selfie with the sign, and he tries to dart out of the way, but I bid him to stay because he’s not staring into this phone, and he should be honored.
Mile 2.1: Somebody hollers “Rabi Nachman!” (I’m wearing my usual NaNach kippah) I swivel my head around to see who it was, and it’s a member of the NYPD. Now that’s interesting.
Mile 2.3: Best sign of the day: “No, you’re not almost finished.” Ha! Very good. The rest are vulgar (“**** Yeah!”) or praising the field for running better than the government. Some new creative infusion is desperately needed.
Mile 3.5: The obsession with Pete Davidson continues. A couple has carved out time of their day to fashion one sign that says, “How could you leave Staten Island?,” and another that says, “Pete Davidson lives there!” Mmmkay.
Mile 4.1: I jump into a porta-potty real quick, because my day is almost over and I’m not sure when my next opportunity will be. Upon exiting, I get panicky texts from my mom asking me where I am. I guess the tracker is finally working well this year!
Mile 4.65: A stranger chats me up. He’s curious about my new hip. Turns out, he lives in my neighborhood, and I’ll likely see him around after today! He slaps me on my back and wishes me well, when I look to the sidelines and see…
Mile 4.66: …my daughter? What’s she doing here? Everybody was supposed to stay home, and my mom and aba were supposed to bring me back home. I’m confused.
Mile 4.7: Wait, what? What’s my wife doing here? And everybody else? They’ve got signs for me and everything, but this wasn’t the plan! What’s going on??? Turns out, because of my plans to not finish, my wife put herself through the insane trouble to pick me up at my finishing point. And I mean a lot of trouble. I’m touched. This is the sweetest thing. We take tons of family pictures, along with pics with our old mailman (who lives on the block and camps out annually as tradition). I jump back on the course, because I have one more stop to make.
Mile 5.2: I pull up to the medical tent so I can officially check out. There’s a girl vomiting there. She’s having a worse day than me. Yikes. So my day is over, and as I walk back towards my family, a fella on a stoop hollers at me, and we have this conversation:
Stoop: “Hey buddy, done for the day?”
Me: “Yeah, sciatica. Can’t finish.”
Stoop: “Ooh, right side or left?”
Me: “Right.”
Stoop: “Oh man, I once had both sides. I know what you’re going through. Good luck to you, buddy.”
Me: “Thank you, man!”
I rejoin my family, and cheer on the runners from the beach chair my mom brought for me. We look for friends of ours we know to be on the course, and whom we’re tracking via the app, but the crowd is so thick now, that we see none of them. I then post the following, which should give you full detail of the why of my shortened day:
It had to happen at some point, and in my 252nd race, it finally did.
There was a high probability that today was going to be the day, however. For the past few months, I’ve been dealing with ever-increasing leg pain. It got so bad, I hauled myself into the ER, spent a night on a stretcher pumped full of pain meds, and got an MRI in the morning. Initial diagnosis was frightening, so I got a 2nd and 3rd opinion that concurred to be less scary, more manageable, and fixable without a scalpel.
So I huddled with my family, and we agreed that a DNF was less devastating than a DNS, and that my long-term health was most important of all. I would start, and, among many scenarios, if I experienced any distress, I would greet my Mom and Aba in Brooklyn, report to the next medical tent, have Mom and Aba scoop me up and bring me home.
A friend said it best to me: “I know how proud you are of your streak, and deservedly so. But it's just a race. You matter more. Take care of yourself.”
True. I am. I promise.
Then my wife shocked me. There she was at the Mom/Aba stop with all our children, supporting me. Everybody’s bringing me home. I’ll have my scheduled junk food meal, then I’ll begin the process of fixing what’s wrong here, and rebuild myself again.
This will be the first year since 1996 that I will not have completed at least one marathon. But that’s okay.
Because I’ll be back.
I’ll always be back.”
So home we all went.
Now my day wasn’t all sadness, as it finished in quite a positive and upbeat way.
As it happened, I had pending wedding invites from two cousins – one from my dad’s side; one from my mom’s - who were marrying off children, the night of the marathon, in Williamsburg, two blocks apart. Had I finished the race, it would have been impossible to attend.
I was a bit down, though, and wasn’t really in the mood. However, my wife – who doubles as my Good Inclination – convinced me to go. So I suited (and hatted) up, and I went. Adding some intrigue is that my mom and Aba needed a ride, as their car had broken down when they headed home from the marathon!
Interestingly, the marathon course was long cleaned up by the time I arrived with my folks in tow for mom’s-side wedding #1. My cousins were delighted to see me, and treated me as a bit of a celebrity, because my book about our grandfather (https://www.tinyurl.com/zaidyswar) recently launched, and the whole crowd had a million comments and questions for me. It was wonderful.
I then skipped over to dad’s side wedding #2 and was treated like a celebrity because I was confused for someone else!
Turns out, when I wear a suit and hat, and am surrounded by chasidim, and slump in a certain way, and have a bit of a five o’clock shadow, that I’m some kind of doppelganger for my dad.
On *two* occasions, ten minutes apart, complete strangers slapped me on the back and said, “Barry! I haven’t seen you in a long time!”
My name isn’t Barry.
That’s my dad’s name, and both back-slappers were mortified when I turned around and revealed a face they weren’t expecting. I asked them their names so I could give regards, but like the Joseph story where he reveals himself to his brothers, they were too “disconcerted” (Artscroll’s translation of “Nivhalu”) to respond.
After that I headed home, and I have to say, I had an interesting day overall.
I’ll be back, as promised, and at the moment, I think I have the sciatica under control, having done what I needed to go to have it all in order.
Just do me a favor, my dear cousins, no more weddings on marathon Sunday, please, even though I love you all, because I have to finish what I start.
You see, I’ve got to get halfway to Dave. Thanks!

Monday, December 12, 2022

The best Holocaust memoirs revealing the emotional & mental contours and development of the protagonist

Shepherd.com is a book discovery site. They promote authors by featuring their new books alongside the author's 5 book recommendations that are along the same lines as the author's book. Follow all that? Of course you did.

So, in promotion of Zaidy's War, here are my 5 recommendations in the category I fashioned for the topic. Please enjoy! thank you, Ben, Cathy, and Serita!


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

An Explanation of the Book Cover of Zaidy's War


I have gotten many compliments for the book cover of Zaidy's War. That's gratifying, because the publisher and I put a lot of thought and planning into it. I'd like to explain its features, so that you might appreciate its engineering.

There are 5 elements to the cover: the title, the subtitle, the background, the arm, the flags.

The title: the most familiar and oft-used holocaust memoir titles are "x's x," where the first x is an old-world European name (e.g. Manya, Luli, Anka, et al.) and the second x is a hopeful adjective (e.g. Hope, Search, Journey, et al.). That worked for me, but I wanted the first x to me more family-familiar, and the second x to be something harsher. Hence, Zaidy's War. I also went with "Zaidy" over "Zeidy" because the former is more flexible in pronunciation.

The subtitle: this was an 11th-hour request from the publisher. I set to work drafting something impactful, catchy, and eyeball-grabbing. I wrote up a dozen ideas, and polled my family, plus my cousins - who have a deep, vested interest in the book, as you might imagine. The one settled on was the near-unanimous winner. The first clause is an eyebrow-raiser, the second hints that it's wide-ranging, the third tells you more is involved than only one man's trial, and the final one works because the publisher said "survival" and "resilience" are a bit overused. "Endurance" it is!

The background: I was looking for something that conveyed the harshness of the environment that Zaidy endured for 3.5 years of the war. I was also looking for something that suggested not just the harshness of terrain, but war itself. The artist found the perfect blend of bone-coldness, plus a war trench. It's perfect. I swear I can feel the cold when I hold the book.

The arm: the outstretched arm and strong grip overtly and obviously represent the Yad chazakah v'Zroyah netuyah of the Creator. Zaidy's brother specifically cited this when saved from death, in the visage of the liberating Americans. It serves as metaphor as well because Zaidy appreciated God's intervention in subtler ways.

The flags: I was looking for a way to represent Zaidy's life journey. I did not want the most common motif, which would be obvious to anyone who picks up 15 ransom Holocaust memoirs. You'll see how they're alike. The publisher rejected a giant map of Europe with various arrows, and a timeline with arrows was rejected as well. As a passionate vexillologist, I thought flags of each sojourn would be a marvelous way to depict Zaidy's wanderings. The publisher agreed. The angle of the pole and fluttering of the flags is inspired by the famous Flag Raising at Iwo Jima picture, and also by a beautiful picture my wife took on Yom Ha'atzma'ut years ago of an arm waving the Israeli flag (it's on the wall of our home office). The reader will note that the flags all look like they were during WWII. Therefore, 4 of the 6 are different from the present day. The reader will also note that the wear and tear of the flags is carefully orchestrated. Example: the Nazi flag is limpest of all, and ravaged through its heart, while the Israeli flag's heart is intact, albeit with a healed scar. An explanation of this is not necessary. I worked with an artist on freelancer.com to put all these elements together.

And there you have it! A cover I consider rather unique, and certainly stands out on a Holocaust bookshelf, if all the books were facing out. I'm proud of it, and I appreciate the interest in my book overall. Thank you for reading: https://www.tinyurl.com/zaidyswar

Monday, October 31, 2022

My 9th Annual Book Report


My 9th Annual Book Report

NaNoWriMo is imminent once more. Methinks now is a perfectly auspicious time to take stock of how I’m doing thus far with my publishing endeavors and to ask my friends which of my in-progress or in-my-head projects I should tackle exclusively for the month of November. I do this annually. The non-self-publishing industry has finally noticed that I exist, and I will publish an average of a book per year until 2095. I don’t know what my numbers will be then, but these are my numbers to date, in order of copies sold, completion percentage, and development stage in my brain, respectively:

Published (11):

The Emoji Haggadah: 3,022 copies sold. The haggadah, entirely translated into emojis. My biggest success; my coup de grace; my magnum opus, thus far. There is more in me, but this is my pinnacle to date. Well regarded, covered in media everywhere, including the apex: The New York Times, plus attention from popular bloggers, such as Naomi Nachman. People have tweeted excerpts of it with joy, which has given me joy. The Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t even halt its far reach. Yes, it’s a helluva conversation starter with complete strangers, and put me in touch with certain writers I admire. My favorite writer, A.J. Jacobs, sent me a postcard, thanking me for enriching his seder. That sent me over the moon. Finally, it’s in dozens of libraries all over the world, and that makes me deliriously happy. At last count: 53 libraries, in 19 states, and 8 countries. https://tinyurl.com/theemojihaggadah

Donald J. Trump Will You Please Go Now!: 897 copies sold. I ran into a huge rights issue when trying to publish this book in timely fashion for Election Day. I couldn’t possibly secure permissions for each of the photographs I used. My legal team advised that the only way around this, considering the time-crunch, was to give it away for free. So I did that. Dozens of copies are still downloaded weekly from dozens of book sites, and the Facebook page is filled with extraordinarily active, lively, angry, prurient sorts. What a strange success this has been. https://tinyurl.com/djtwypgn

The Shakespeare Haggadah: 368 copies sold. My 4th Haggadah (tying the record with the esteemed Dave Cowen) and my most successful and promising so far. So promising, in fact, that the publisher (Wicked Son, aptly named) is producing a second version with various enhancements and improvements. This book netted me my first live video interviews, available online for your viewing pleasure. The cover is well-appreciated and a real attention-grabber, and the editing staff remains super enthusiastic about the project. I found the perfect house for this one. http://tinyurl.com/shakespearehaggadah

The Festivus Haggadah: 323 copies sold. A mash-up of the haggadah and everything Seinfeld, but especially the Festivus holiday. My 2nd-best-selling Haggadah. The creative part of my brain is constantly arguing with itself about which is the more creative endeavor, this or Emoji. It doesn’t matter who’s right. I win. This got a lot of good attention too, with more to come, as it’s of prime national pop-cultural interest. I even got an Amazon review from the mighty Dave Cowen (I’ve now mentioned him twice. What’s up with that?). Now that sure was somethin’. https://tinyurl.com/FestivusHaggadah

The Coronavirus Haggadah: 313 copies sold. I’m shocked to have sold that many, as I gave it away for free upon publication. Why? Well, I wrote it – the haggadah as seen through the lens of the 2020(/1/2/3) pandemic, and featuring heaps of bittersweetness and sarcasm - in a frenzy, but very close to Passover, so I had no chance to get a proof copy with such little time left. So, free it was to the world (and I have no way of tracking how many folks grabbed the free version (https://tinyurl.com/CoronavirusHaggadah), but I nevertheless created paid book and e-versions, whose proceeds entirely went to CDC Cares, who really, really needed it at the time. I also put a trackable version here: https://archive.org/details/coronavirus-haggadah. Lotsa folks apparently had it at their seder tables, and may there be no use for it ever again, except for a nostalgic laugh, amen. https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/martin-bodek/the-coronavirus-haggadah/paperback/product-186jdv5v.html

Extracts From Noah’s Diary: 126 copies sold. Mark Twain wrote Extracts from Adam’s Diary, then followed up later with Eve’s Diary, then did not follow up any further, save for some parodies of Methuselah’s entries. This is where I came in; a sequel 100 years overdue. So big, it’s biblical. I was successful in having it reviewed by a small handful of book sites. I worked hard on the jokes, and strenuously on the research. It’s actually a giant d’var torah, and I feel my baby deserves more attention than it’s gotten. It is my first book ever to grace the New York Public Library’s shelves. I made it to Valhalla. http://tinyurl.com/NoahsDiary

Zaidy’s War: 123 copies sold. As of this writing, the book is just 3 weeks old. It is my magnum opus, my family legacy, and it took me 19 years from beginning to end of the project. It is the story of my grandfather, who experienced mind-blowing travails during WWII, and somehow managed to serve 4 armies due to wildly unique circumstances. My wife called him the Forrest Gump of WWII, and he indeed was. He was present for the largest land battle in human history, and the final battle of the war, and in many unreal places before and after. Hopefully, by my next book report, I’ll be able to report on many other accolades and coverage. I do hope this will surpass anything I’ve ever done to date. Amsterdam Publishers is the ideal house for this work. They are the largest publisher of Holocaust literature in Europe, and I could not be happier with the relationship. https://tinyurl.com/zaidyswar

54 Runners, 54 Stories: The Tale of the 2012 200k JRunners Relay Race: 79 copies sold. JRunners lives on, but its signature sanctioned race is on hiatus, and I miss it. This is the chronicle of the last such race. I’m very proud of the dogged efforts I put into this one, in pursuing the stories. I targeted an entire very-niche market, and sold it to nearly all of them. A sequel might perhaps one day be written, but it likely requires a full relay to be deserving of that, and a return to the glory days. It could happen. May we return speedily to those days, Amen. 

The Year of Bad Behavior: Bearing Witness to the Uncouthiest of Humanity: 74 copies sold. The things that people moan and groan about concerning their fellow man, especially on Facebook, are all covered here. Every time I revisit the manuscript, it feels so current. Proud of this one too. 

A Conversation on The Way: 70 copies sold. An imagined conversation between a believer and a skeptic on a morning walk to synagogue, based on my own experiences. Reviewed on several blogger sites, featured at the YU Seforim Sale, and nicely received. I especially enjoy the artwork by Dena Szpilzinger, the first hired professional of my writing career. I’m hoping to afford other services, like editing and publicity, though I am grateful to my volunteers, particularly Messrs. Michael Sharf, Jeff Goodstein, and Yaakov Sash. http://tinyurl.com/ConvoBook

Bush II, Book I: 67 copies sold. The King-James-esque telling of the 2nd Bush’s 1st term. The world has found this book, my first-born. It exists somewhere that’s getting attention. Kindle versions are constantly finding themselves into strangers’ hands. Every time 9/11 approaches, I get a spike in sales. No coincidence that my first book has the fewest sales, but there’s no shame in that at all. This got my feet wet, and I learned – and continue to learn – a lot about the business. http://tinyurl.com/BushIIBookI

In progress (13):

Bush II, Book II: Manuscript 47% complete. I haven’t tackled this in a while, but it’s time to return. The attention the first book is getting warrants this. Also, I really didn’t think I wouldn’t get the sequel out before Obama’s tenure was complete. Trump, Book I would be a nutball project to tackle. Biden, Book I would be incoherent. Ah har har har.

The Year of Bad Behavior II: More Scalawags, Dirtbags, Bullyrags, and Lollygags: Manuscript 30% complete. I also must return to this as well. The format differs from its prequel – grievances are ordered by category, rather than written as diary entries – and I think I’ll have an interesting product when complete. NJTransit’s stupidities, on their own, warrant a complete spin-off.

A Conversation on the Conversation: Manuscript 20% complete. The first book is begging for a sequel, but it’s going to take lots of work. The quasi-fictional idea is that the original becomes a best-seller, and I’m invited to a talk show to discuss. This is the hard part. I and my interviewer pore over the original manuscript point for point, and I also will include rebuttals to my arguments that I received (in real life) from readers. It’s daunting, big big, but I’ll get it done somehow.

Hilchos Goyish Yomim Tovim for Yiden: Manuscript 13.5% complete. For the past few years, I’ve published “halachic” overviews of secular holidays on bangitout.com. Particularly, targeting Jewish folk who really want to immerse themselves in American culture. I’ve also peppered Facebook with random “halachic” ideas for all sorts of secular situations. It’s silly, but the funniness is appreciated. Why not dedicate a whole book to the farce? I identified 37 generally known American major and sub-sub-major holidays. Since I’ve written “piskei halacha” on 5 of these days, including the venerated “snow day,” I’m already 13.5% done! And yes, the title’s a bit crass. I’ll work on that.

The Man Who Read 1,001 Books Before He Died: 11.6% complete. You know those popular 1,001 xxx to xxx Before You Die books? Specifically, the Books to Read one? I thought it would be a neat trick to actually read those 1,001 books and write about the experience. This was what I NaNoWriMoed eight years ago, and I’ve been fully immersed since. Whether you measure my status by the number of books I’m up to (116) or the pace at which I’ll read them (I’m scheduled to finish in November 2081. I should live so long!), the number is 11.6%. I’ve got a long way to go, but the progress will be steady. There is no question it’ll be the largest work I’ll ever put out. Not even eight years in, it stands at 68,000 words/242 pages.

Forty Runners Less One: Stories and Glories From the 2013 200k JRunners 200k Relay Race: Manuscript 11% complete. I collected the runner stories and also conducted interviews when needed. I also collected stories for the 2014 version of the race, and actually got 25% of the pack’s write-ups. Same for 2015, but with a drastically dwindled amount, and for 2016, with even smaller numbers, and for 2017, with almost nothing. Alas, there has been no relay since. It looks like the runners are more eager to contribute, as mentioned above, when the relay is a full one. I think I have to pull that off before I pull a book sequel off, in which all past year’s entries that I have on file will be included. I’ll target the same niche group as the original, and hopefully attract more runners to the great race.

And Mordechai Wrote: 3% complete. My paternal grandfather’s memoirs. The man for whom I am named recorded his thoughts about losing his wife and three children in WWII, surfacing from the ashes with his faith intact, marrying my grandmother, rebuilding a home with six children, then suffering for years from lung cancer until his death at age 47. He called the collection Vayichtav Mordechai, and it is entirely written in Hebrew. I started the translation six NaNoWriMos ago, but admittedly fell off the wagon when I found a new job, plus I jumped into other writing projects. I have to re-shift priorities and jump back on the wagon again. I’ll revisit after I complete my next haggadah, and hope to produce this before the end of next year, or, preferably before next Yom HaShoah.

The Man Who Read 1,001 Children’s Books Before He Died: 2.5% complete. Something tells me I might actually die before I read all 1,001 grown-up books that I need to before I die. Maybe no, maybe yes, so I need a sub-project I might actually finish. This might do the trick, and also kills two birds with one stone: My wife has been after me for years to produce a children’s book (she says my Trump book doesn’t count). The only way I can really understand the mechanics of one is to, well, read them, all. So that’s what I’m doing, and I’m chronicling the experience. I’m barely out of the gate at this point, with only 25 read so far, but this will gather a head of steam quickly, I gather.

The <classified> Haggadah. 2% complete. The only hint I can give you is that I must break my haggadah tie with Dave Cowen (3 times now!). The only clue I can give you is that I’m targeting another pop culture demographic. That’s it. That’s all your getting. I must have this out before next Passover, so I’m heavily leaning towards NaNoWriMo for this one.

My First 37 Marathons: The Running Story of a Midpack Runner: Putting all my marathon running reports together. Hoping I can find them all. I wonder if I’ll be successful. If I can actually find them, collating should be a snap. Everything’s already been written! This would include the as-yet-unwritten reports that I have all notes for, and would exclude the Makeshift Marathon I ran when Sandy canceled NYC in 2012, and also the thirteen ultras I’ve run. Or maybe they shouldn’t be excluded at all, as I’ve run 50 marathons-or-longer. I’ll think about it.

Children's Book #1 with Classified Title: I'm trying to write a parody of a famous children's book. My fresh angle is to switch the antagonist and protagonist’s points of view. First draft did not pass muster with my Editor-in-Chief. Not creative enough. Will submit new drafts shortly.

Children's Book #2 with Classified Title: I'm trying to write a parody of a less famous  - albeit more notorious - children's book. First draft did not pass muster with my Editor-in-Chief. Too tawdry. Will submit new drafts shortly.

The Knish’s Best 192 Articles of the First 192 it’s Published: I launched the first issue 19 years ago, and released issue #32, the last one more than a few years back. The time may have arrived – as with my Marathon project above – to house them all in a single compendium, as a way of celebrating the site’s 6th anniversary of its Bar Mitzvah. Everything’s written, I just need to write an intro and a timeline and do a pile of formatting. Shouldn’t be a big deal. Problem, though, would be how to share revenue with all the writers. What would be a fair system?

In my head (20):

How the Countries Got Their Shapes: I read a wonderful book entitled How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein. It’s exactly what you think it is. I did the best research I could, and could find not a single book that covers the concept on a global scale. Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall, comes close. I could be the man who could fill that gap. I would enjoy the research very much. I wonder if I’d have to ask the author of the inspiration for permission before proceeding.

The Israel/Gaza War: The 102nd Bloodiest Conflict in the World in 2014: Amid the swaths of the myriad piles of articles I read on the topic, one little factoid stood out to me out of all others: that little statistic that I think would be an alarming book title. Because Israel has so many challenges coming from all directions, it also – as a silver lining of sorts – creates opportunities for people concerned for her to battle on her behalf. Perhaps I could contribute in this way, by helping to focus attention away from Israel and towards at least 101 other places on earth that deserve more international concern and intervention. I would have to come face to face with a lot of evil, though, plus the research would be difficult, and the data murky. This might be a calling I might have to answer, though.

Territorial Disputes: A Primer on the 600 Other International Land Quarrels No One Knows or Cares About, But Should: Along the same lines as above: a very long story, very short: somehow a miracle happened that the president of a publishing company invited me to present to his committee - that publishes books in a “Things You Need To Know” motif - my thoughts around how only Israel – and perhaps Cyprus/Turkey and India/Pakistan – gets vilified over its land issues with its neighbors. My project was declined, but it’s being kept on the burner. If they won’t go with it, perhaps I’ll strike out on my own (something I’m familiar with). As above, this might be an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an area more deserving, and away from where it is currently. Which project would be worthier? Hmmm…

Children's Book #3 with Classified Title: Oh man, another antagonist/protagonist switching parody idea hit me, following a visit to a noted children’s author’s museum. This is how I intentionally seek inspiration. It works! I’ll be fleshing this one out too.

Children's Book #4 with Classified Title: I was inspired by a series of photographs that I took of my children. My Editor-in-Chief has some great ideas about spinning it into a bedtime story. I’m pondering the text, and will need an illustrator to convert the pictures we have into artwork for the book.

Parenting Book with Classified Title: There are many parenting books out there. Most of them are garbage. I have an idea for one with a healthy dose of humor and a large general twist. My everyday parenting keeps inspiring ideas for the project. I think I’m to begin putting pen-to-paper on this shortly.

The Inevitables: A Gladwellian idea I have about people who spend their entire lives in pursuit of a specific career, switch to something else on a dime, and become wildly successful despite a complete lack of practice or the 10,000 hours Gladwell himself talks about.

Universals: The Differences and Similarities Between Global Cultures: I’m fascinated by this. There are things that are the same 99% of everywhere (basic utensils, green is go, cash for service, elemental human needs), and things that are different 99% of everywhere (voting systems, traffic handling, cordiality, attire, interpretation of freedom, hand gestures, justice). I’d like to explore. I’ve been traveling more lately on behalf of my corporation, and my cultural experiences have expanded, as has my curiosity.

Speakers of the Torah: My first actual sefer-esque idea. While researching my Noah book, it struck me how little dialogue God has with his direct primordial creations. Noah never speaks to God. Adam speaks two utterances to his Creator. Eve speaks to Him more than her husband does. There is also limited dialogue between man and man. I read a discourse by the famous Nechama Leibowitz on the dialogues of the biblical Joseph. She made fascinating conclusions, and it left me intrigued. I think this idea is worth exploring in full, and I wonder where the research will take me. I focused on this for NaNoWriMo 2019 and fantastic statistical revelations really popped out as I went elbow-deep into the text. I might have something here. I have Torah in me. I should get it out. I won’t lose focus on the grandfather memoirs, promise.

Things that Drive Me Crazy About the Talmud: My second actual even more sefer-esque idea. My shadchan self-published a sefer recently, borne out of notes he kept while learning through TaNaCH over a 15-year period. They were truly original thoughts that he compressed into a single, impressive volume. I realized while reading that our thought-lines were quite similar, especially in regards to the myriad unanswered questions – and potentially original ones – that I had about the gemorah, in which I’m currently immersed in my third cycle of learning. I have begun to keep notes, and here too, I will look back after a time and see if I have anything worthy of being recorded in a single large volume. Apologies, I don’t have a more polite title at this time – and maybe I’ll just go with it.

If These Objects Could Talk. I was inspired by the candlesticks my wife inherited from her great-grandmother. The family took it with them when on the run, and in hiding, during WWII. I was also inspired by a similar story of the late Ba’al Hamaor, Rav Meir Amsel, whose family brought their SHaS with them through all their difficult war travels, resulting in a family tradition for every Bar Mitzvah boy to do his first learning out of this said SHaS. It strikes me that if these objects could talk about their experiences and journeys, it would make a fascinating, illuminating, enriching read. A book called The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edumnd de Waal covers very similar ground. I would publicly post a call for stories, and would probably get some very interesting responses. The more I ponder this one, the more worthy it seems.

Where Stuff Comes From. Did you know that 28.5% of the world’s beer comes from Mexico? Did you know that 30% of the world’s coconuts come from Indonesia? Madagascar grows 41% of the world’s vanilla. China produces 67% of the world’s cement. Spain makes 75% of the world’s olive oil. Isn’t all that fascinating? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know where exactly everything comes from? It’s interesting to me. I’d buy a book to read about it. Methinks I have to write it so I can read it.

Where U.S. Stuff Comes From. Did you know that 60% of the USA’s cranberries come from Wisconsin? Did you know that 60% of the USA’s sweet potatoes come from North Carolina? 99% of artichokes are grown in California. 100% (!!!) of sorghum, rice, soybeans, eggs, dairy, pork, chicken and turkey meat is made right at home. As a matter of fact, 87% of what Americans eat and drink is produced on home base. Wouldn’t this be fun to explore too? Wouldn’t it be fun for curious sorts from all countries to know where their stuff comes from? If the answer is yes, I’d be happy to have 100% of this information come from me.

A Brief History of Every One of the 3,000 Haggadot Ever Written. Three Passovers ago, I was commissioned by the editors of The Jewish Book Council to write A Brief History of the Haggadah (https://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/pb-daily/a-brief-history-of-the-haggadah). The research led me to various and fascinating places. I covered 2% of the total by citing 60 haggadot in their relevance and contexts. Upon completion, I thought: wouldn’t it be wild to get my hands – or my eyes, through museum glass – on each and every one of them? Wouldn’t that be an awesome collection, and adventure? Vanessa L. Ochs recently published The Passover Haggadah: A Biography, which covers similar ground, but my idea might be more ambitious, and certainly more peripatetic. This would need massive travel funding, though. Just an idea for now.

Something New Under the Sun. Catchy title, no? You know how sometimes you’re learning Gemara, and you swear something scientific they’re discussing has the credit given to some European astronomer, like 500 years later? What’s up with that? The naming of the 7 planets in the Talmud is one example. Dabbling in Game Theory is another. There are many others. One part of the book would be giving proper credit where it’s due. Another would be to highlight that something scientific, with credit centuries later, was preceded with a Jewish discoverer, but the true origin might go back even further. I’d need a PhD in history or something to do this, but if I think of enough excellent examples, this might be worth fleshing out.

Biography idea. I admire certain people, and I’d like to tell their stories. But who exactly am I to do that, and why would anyone want to partake from my offering? Well, I’m arrogant enough to believe that I’ve come up with a novel, immersive way of telling a life story. Before I’d even begin, I’d first have to be actually making a living as a writer, because the concept would require enormous amounts of travel and time away from family. Let’s get to where this is even financially viable before I embark.

Obama, Book I: Must Finish Bush II, Book II first.

Obama, Book II: I never thought there’d be a sequel. I have a lot to learn.

Trump, Book I: OMG, do I have to? Previous presidents paced themselves with a scandal per year. This guy created one every time he spoke with his mouth or thumbs. I would never get done with writing such a thing.

Biden, Book I: See three paragraphs directly above.

When you let me know which project I should tackle – or stay focused on - for November, also please let me know what my grade is on my report.

Oh, and feel free to avail yourself to a book of mine or two (I just passed the 5,462 copies sold mark. Whoa.) at 50%-75% off the MSRP. I'll have several more items on my straining bookshelf for you very soon, but for now, truly, the lineup of 11 is quite colorful, and pleasing to the eye – at least to mine: 

Man, I also gotta resurrect TheKnish.com, write my next surname article (It’s been how many years?), catch up on my travelogues and marathon run write-ups…