A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by a Big Journal in my field to review an essay on a very contemporary, very interesting playwright on whom virtually nothing has yet been written. I happened to be teaching a play by this playwright the next week, the first time I'd ever taught the playwright. I had been recommended to the journal by my advisor, who was too busy.
The essay was for a special issue, and so it needed to be turned around quickly, with very specific and direct feedback for revision, if applicable. I did it, and the editor seemed very happy with my response. In fact, he asked me to review a forthcoming book on the playwright, which I also agreed to do.
Here's the thing. I know the profession relies on this sort of work from academics, and quite frankly, I'm at a stage in my career where I feel flattered to even be asked.
But I am unclear on precisely how to value this work, and when I might want to say no: book reviews count for very little on my annual reviews, and reviewing essays for even less. There's no remuneration, and the value in getting my name out there seems minimal. So, internets, how do you feel about this sort of work? How do you value it? How do you make decisions about when to accept these tasks, and when it's time to take a pass?