... as soon as I read what Lev Grossman had to say at Critical Mass: On Amateur Book Reviewing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
The question that comes to mind is what constitutes a professional book reviewer. Is that somebody who has an advanced degree in literature or something? "There's a pervasive notion that anybody who can read can write a book review." There is? It doesn't have to do with whether you can read, but with whether you can write. On the other hand, to be honest, I can't agree that "an exemplar ... can easily be found in the New York Review of Books." I've read some good reviews in the New York Review of Books, but I've also read plenty that were interminable, diffuse, and tendentious. That judging a "book in context of other books that may be related" gets a lot of reviewers in trouble; that's where they often come off as being primarily interested in showing off how much they know. The other thing that gets reviewers in trouble is being preoccupied with demonstrating how cleverly they can phrase their judgments. Good reviews aren't about the reviewers.