One of Zadie Smith’s great gifts as a novelist is her openness: both to character and ideas in her stories, and to what a novel itself should be. That she’s a novelist was clear as soon she broke through with White Teeth in her early twenties, but what kind she’ll be (or will be next) seems open to change. Which all, along with her consistent intelligence, grace, and wit, makes her an ideal essayist too, especially for the sort of “occasional essays” collected for the first time in Changing My Mind. She can make the case equally for the cozy “middle way” of E.M. Forster and the most purposefully demanding of David Foster Wallace’s stories, both as a reader and, you imagine, as a writer who is considering their methods for her own. The occasions in this book didn’t only bring her to write about writers, though: she also investigates, among other subjects, Katherine Hepburn, Liberia, and Barack Obama (through the lens of Pygmalion), and, in the collection’s finest piece, recalls her late father and their shared comedy snobbery. One wishes more occasions upon her.