I’m a professional writer. This means that no matter what I write, even a trivial note, I bring the level of the writing up to a certain minimum level. Is this a virtue or a character defect? I’m not sure. In any case, it means you ultimately become resentful of book reviews. No, you don’t just dash them off; you write them, and that always means a certain amount of time, and real care. What are you left with? Not a big cheque, certainly—even very well known writers are paid a pittance for book reviews. And the piece, when it’s finished, is only…a book review. Worth saving? Worth reprinting? I make no apologies for my efforts here, but present the following because I think the books under discussion remain of interest, regardless of my comments on them. Most of these appeared in the Washington Post Book World the New York Times Sunday Book Review or the Ottawa Citizen. No, I’ve never written a line for the Toronto Globe and Mail.