By Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - This is a first for me. I decided to review "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World" this week. It's much-talked about, and it's rapidly climbing the best seller lists. I assumed I would be able to glean from it one of those de rigueur historical lessons that "the present administration would be wise to mind." That's always good in a review of this nature because it lends significance to a musty event few people care about. Truth be told, if you dig deep enough in any popular history, you're always able to manufacture one of those lessons.

The trouble is, I couldn't finish the damn book. Finish? Hell, I couldn't start it. I've been trying to read it all week, but I can't get beyond the first page. I must emphasize that this had nothing to do with the book, it's me. The words just never sank in. I must have read that first sentence alone more than 500 times but I can't tell you a single word in it. You've heard of "writer's block," well, I'm experiencing "reader's block." This, I would point out, is a serious problem for someone who earns a living reviewing books.

I am amazed I'm being so frank with you, my faithful readers. I confess that the inability to read this book has left me more than a little shaken. The fact is, I'm going through something terrible.

Today, I received an advance copy of Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret" to review for next week. As I sit at my desk removing it from its box, a cold perspiration bespangles my brow, and I fear almost beyond description that I'll not be able to read it.

I apologize for any typographical errors or lapses in logic in this review, but I am unable to proofread it.