Current favorites for leisure reading

FICTION * 2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke. New York: Ballantine Books. 291 pp. only fantasy and classical science fiction on a grand, cosmic scale, but also the realities of space travel and the findings of the Voyager probes.

* THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, by John le Carre. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 448 pp. $15.95. The master of cerebral spy stories uses a heroine this time as his central character in a drama that, without glorifying extremism, pits Israeli intelligence against a Palestinian terrorist, while exploring the regenerative powers of love.

* KILDEER MOUNTAIN, by Dee Brown. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 279 pp. by a St. Louis Herald reporter sent by his editor up the Missouri River in search of stories. By chance he ends up on a river boat, where he begins to unravel the mysterious identity of a certain Major Rawley.

* TZILI: The Story of a Life, by Aharon Appelfeld. New York: E.P. Dutton. 192 pp. $12.95. This new novel by the acclaimed Israeli author (''Badenheim 1939,'' ''The Age of Wonders'') is a survival narrative cast in the form of a fairy tale. Its retarded heroine's passage through Nazi-haunted Europe is an allegory of innocence besieged and transformed by evil - an appalling story, yet somehow also a humane and hopeful one.

* STORIES OF LIFE / NORTH AND SOUTH, by Erskine Caldwell. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 288 pp. $14.95. A welcome collection of stories from the great period (1930s) of one of America's most underrated writers. Caldwell's deadpan understatement and narrative economy are seen to superb advantage in his colorful tall tales and his powerful studies of the effects of Southern racism and poverty.

* DEADEYE DICK, by Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence. 240 pp. $14.95. Vonnegut's best novel in years seems to say we'd all be better off if we practiced simple human kindness. The book is marred by coy rhetorical trickiness, but it offers some clever, funny inventions as its middle-aged narrator recalls how the day he accidentally became a double murderer at age 12 altered his life.

* THE LONDON EMBASSY, Paul Theroux. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 248 pp. characters - employees at the US embassy in London - find the English as foreign , inexplicable, and occasionally menacing as more exotic peoples. (In this sequel to ''The Consul's File,'' each chapter can be read as a self-contained short story.)

* CLOAK OF DARKNESS, by Helen MacInnes. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 352 pp. $13.95. MacInnes once again proves that spy stories don't have to be vicious or perverse to hold a reader's attention. Strong characters and an intricate plot do the job in this chronicle of an American who gets involved in fast-paced action around the world after setting up a counterterrorist organization.

* BANKER, by Dick Francis. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 306 pp. $14.95. The popular English mystery writer centers his plot on a race horse and the world of high finance to produce a fast-paced adventure that nonetheless must be ranked below his best.

* LUSITANIA, by David Butler. New York: Random House. 578 pp. $17.95. The focus of this action-filled book is on the WWI German U-boat commander who eventually torpedoes the famous ocean liner and thereby triggers American involvement in the war. Yet, even though the outcome is known from the start, author Butler manages to maintain suspense right up to the last page.

* GOODBYE MICKEY MOUSE, by Len Deighton. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 337 pp. $ 14.95. A captivating saga of WWII American flying aces stationed in Cambridge, England - their friendships, loves, inner conflicts - all sandwiched between dangerous missions.

* FOUNDATION'S EDGE, by Isaac Asimov. New York: Doubleday & Co. 384 pp. $14. 95. The prolific science writer's first novel in 10 years traces the space travels of an envoy who, in the face of a dire threat to humanity, is sent by one group of scientists to make peace with another group, both of which are caught up in fierce rivalry as they try to accomplish the same delicate mission. GENERAL NONFICTION

* BLUE HIGHWAYS, by William Least Heat Moon. Boston: Atlantic-Little, Brown & Co. 326 pp. $17.50. A journal-like record - drenched in imagery - of a trip along America's back roads (printed in blue on older maps). Moon captures the glory of the landscape, the variety and vibrancy of the people, their thoughts and words.

* THE FORTIES, by Edmund Wilson. Edited and with an Introduction by Leon Edel. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 369 pp. $17.95. The third volume in the serial publication of Wilson's journals shows the structured industriousness that distinguishes the celebrated literary critic. It includes Wilson's observations on an enormous variety of subjects - nature walks, America in World War II, persons, and places.

* THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, by John Hay. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 192 pp. and yellowlegs in his 10th book about the intricate relationships that exist between nature and man. Poetic imagery and silky threads of subtle humor are woven throughout.

* A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AUSTRALIA, edited by Rick Smolan and Andy Park. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 288 pp. $40. One hundred photojournalists descended on Australia for a single day to record the whole continent at work and at play, and the result is this fascinating large-format photo book.

* FAST TRAIN RUSSIA, by Jay Higginbotham. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 114 pp. award-winning historian of a week-long train trip he took in 1966, nearly 6,000 miles from the Sea of Japan to Moscow.

* RED AND HOT: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union 1917-1980, by S. Frederick Starr. New York: Oxford University Press. 300 pp. $16.95. The President of Oberlin College, who also happens to be a jazz musician and scholar in Russian studies, traces the Soviet fascination with jazz, which peaked publicly during WWII, but is still alive and well in private apartments and underground record stores.

* THE WAR MAGICIAN, by David Fisher. New York: Coward, McCann. 256 pp. $15.95 . This fascinating history of how the English high command in World War II enlisted the services of a master magician to help combat the enemy with large-scale illusions is also a vivid testament to human suggestibility and gullibility.

* HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH SPORTS & ACTION, by Robert McQuilkin. Tucson, Ariz.: HP Books (Box 5367, 85703). 159 pp. $9.95. Here's an informative and often-entertaining book for camera buffs who want to know secrets of the pros who get paid for making action photos come alive. Award-winning outdoor photographer Robert McQuilkin gives illustrated advice on everything from equipment to creativity.

* MUSIC IN THE NEW WORLD, by Charles Hamm. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 722 pp. $25. This informative semischolarly history studies all kinds of American music from ''Native American'' forms through ''The Age of Rock.'' Its best features are a lively chapter on ''The Music of Tin Pan Alley,'' an appreciative treatment of ''Hillbilly and Country-Western Music,'' and a good brief bibliography and discography.

* SPECIAL PLACES, by Berton Roueche. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 219 pp. $12. 95. Published originally in the New Yorker, Roueche's essays are full of the quiet details of small towns across America. Almost everyone living in Stapleton , Neb., has blue eyes. The mayor of Welch, W.Va., has a coal mine under his garage. The towns share something quintessentially American, despite their differences.

* SISTER AGE, by M.F.K. Fisher. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 220 pp. $12.95. A renowned food writer, Miss Fisher brings a well-seasoned perspective to this freshly written collection of 15 short stories about aging. She portrays in vivid detail the challenges associated with aging - loneliness, loss of identity , fear of death. But she also revels in what she calls ''the obvious rewards of being old.''

* SAILING TO WIN, 1983 Revised Edition, by Bob Bavier. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 230 pp. $17.95. Mr. Bavier is full of excellent tips to help you do everything from selecting a craft, rigging the mast, taking best advantage of the wind, preparing for a race, and organizing your crew to strategy in competition and those finer points that make for a winning boat. This revision abounds with photographs and drawings.

* EVERYBODY WINS: 393 Non-competitive Games for Young Children, by Jeffrey Sobel. New York: Walker & Co. 146 pp. $12.95. Here's a collection of playground, indoor, and gym games - games for quiet play and pretending, old classics adapted to avoid eliminating players, and new inventions. Recreational director Sobel's games need little special equipment and are suited for the preschool to the sixth-grade youngster to encourage cooperative play. BIOGRAPHY

* MOZART, by Wolfgang Hildesheimer. Translated from the German by Marion Faber. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 408 pp. $22.50. An analysis of the enigmatic personality of the extraordinary musical genius. Previous efforts to ''explain'' his development and achievement have often concluded that Mozart's gift defies explanation. Hildesheimer explores Mozart's relationships with his father and his wife, and also gives an ingenious reading of Mozart's vast correspondence.

* LITTLE FLOWER: The Life and Times of Fiorello La Guardia, by Lawrence Elliott. New York: William Morrow & Co. 256 pp. $13.95. Rather than focusing on his more famous stints as Mayor of New York, this biography tells of La Guardia's career in Congress as a visionary reformer and champion of the poor. What shines through is perseverence after repeated failures, unswerving personal integrity, and almost an obsession with achieving goals.

* MILES DAVIS: A Biography, by Ian Carr. New York: William Morrow & Co. 324 pp. $14.95. The image of trumpeter Miles Davis as the lonely, sometimes reclusive and erratic genius who builds a remarkable body of work over the decades is tempered in this biography. Mr. Carr turns much of the book into a record review, as he recalls the sometimes spontaneous, sometimes lengthy recording sessions and their results.

* THE LAST LION: WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL: Visions of Glory: 1874-1932, by William Manchester. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 973 pp. $25. Packing this account of Churchill's early life and career with incident and quotation, Manchester draws on the (ongoing) official biography and scores of other works, as well as his own interviews to produce an engaging and at times sardonic account. MEMOIRS/ LETTERS/DIARIES

* CHILDHOOD, by Jona Oberski. Translated by Ralph Manheim. New York: Doubleday & Co. 120 pp. $11.95. Told entirely from a child's point of view, this haunting jewel of a memoir of a Jewish boyhood in Nazi-occupied Holland during the Holocaust measures dire loss against a love that persisted and won.

* POWER AND PRINCIPLE: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977-1981, by Zbigniew Brzezinski. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 573 pp. $22.50. This memoir can be read for its frank, sometimes blunt portraits of major figures, its explanation of crucial historic decisions, or insights into ways the foreign policy of a superpower should or shouldn't be run. But don't expect a satisfactory answer to whether it's possible to conduct foreign relations in a way that is principled yet unafraid to use power.

* COURIER FROM WARSAW, by Jan Nowak. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 480 pp. $24.95. Reading more like fiction than fact, this firsthand account by a key operative in Warsaw's WWII anti-Nazi underground chronicles the human decency and courage, along with the undercover treachery and political frustration, that led to the division of Europe and the Cold War.

* YET BEING SOMEONE OTHER, by Laurens van der Post. New York: William Morrow & Co. 352 pp. $15.95. This book aptly reflects the many facets of its author-journalist's life: his sad, beautiful homeland, South Africa; the time he spent on ships; his residence in Japan, first as an admiring guest, then as a prisoner of war; the freedom he discovered by learning not to resent his captors; his remarkable affinity for the people he meets everywhere; and his splendid sense of words.

* THE YOUNGEST SCIENCE: Notes of a Medicine Watcher, by Lewis Thomas. New York: The Viking Press. 260 pp. $14.75. This noted physician's candid memoir has a pleasingly personal yet profession-wide perspective that is especially useful for the layman wanting to understand the changes in medical practice over this century - and especially startling in its candor about the degree to which physicians through the ages have actually employed a form of ''faith healing.''

* SON OF THE REVOLUTION, by Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 301 pp. $15. This autobiography of a young man (written with the help of his American wife) who grew up in Mao Tse-tung's home province during the ''great leap forward'' and the Cultural Revolution is must reading for those who want to understand China today.

* A GENERAL'S LIFE, by Omar Bradley and Clay Blair. New York: Simon & Schuster. 540 pp. $19.95. The late WWII general comes across as shrewder and more outspoken than he ever allowed himself to be during his military career, shedding new light on all the major military events between 1942 and 1953 and confirming his reputation for fairness and compassion toward the men under him.

* THE ESCAPE FROM ELBA, by Norman MacKenzie. New York: Oxford University Press. 289 pp. $14.95. Chronicling one year (the one preceding Waterloo), MacKenzie reveals Napoleon's character, methods, limitless ambition, and the intrique surrounding his first exile. FOR TRAVELERS

* GREAT MUSEUMS OF THE WORLD: Museums of the Andes, edited by Henry A. La Farge. New York: Newsweek Inc. & Kodansha Ltd. (dist. by W.W. Norton & Co.). 172 pp. $16.95. Consisting mostly of stunning color photos and short descriptions of over 100 museum works, this book provides a basic orientation to the pottery, metal work, sculpture, and textiles on view in museums of the Andes. (Other books in the series deal with Athens, Cairo, Leningrad, London, Madrid, Munich, New York, Paris, Pompeii, Tokyo, and Vienna.)

* AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL GALLERY: An Introduction, edited by James Mollison and Laura Murray. New York: Thames & Hudson (dist. by W.W. Norton & Co.) 290 pp. $49 .95. A thorough and well-indexed color guide to the history and collections of the Canberra museum.

* THE HISTORY AND TREASURES OF WINDSOR CASTLE, by Sir Robin Mackworth-Young. New York: Vendome Press (distributed by the Viking Press). 96 pp. $14.95. The castle's librarian and archivist guides readers through its labyrinthine history , the royal families that have occupied it, a sampling of the art and furnishings inside its gray stone walls, and the pomp surrounding weekend visits by the Queen and her retinue.

* MASTERWORKS OF AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY: The Amon Carter Museum Collection, by Martha A. Sandweiss. Birmingham, Ala.: Oxmoor House (PO Box 2463, 35201). 155 pp. $49.95. The Fort Worth museum's photography curator catologs 155 superbly reproduced black and white photos from more than 2,500 in a collection that dates from the beginnings of the art to the present and includes works by America's best-known photographers.

* THE OXFORD ILLUSTRATED LITERARY GUIDE TO THE UNITED STATES, by Eugene Ehrlich and Gorton Carruth. New York: Oxford University Press. 464 pp. $29.95. For the literary traveler, an oversize, indexed, illustrated guide (organized geographically) to over 1,500 US homes (some of them open to the public) once occupied by an author, poet, or playwright. Comments range from one sentence to a few paragraphs.

* MUSIC LOVER'S EUROPE: A Guidebook & Companion, by Kenneth Bernstein. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 202 pp. $12.95. The journalist and travel writer offers practical information for music lovers on concerts and festivals in 24 countries, including England and the Soviet Union.

* THE ART MUSEUMS OF NEW ENGLAND: Massachusetts, by S. Lane Fason Jr. Boston: David R. Godine. 358 pp. $9.95 (paperback). The Williams College art professor gives a lively, informed rundown on each museum in the state, with special attention to a few selected works from its collection. Another volume in the series deals with New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine; the third with Connecticut and Rhode Island.

* THE NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM: Vol. 1, Air, The Story of Flight; Vol. 2 , Space, From Earth to the Stars, by C.D.B. Bryan. New York: Peacock Press-Bantam Books. 152 pp. each. $12.95 each (paperback). Superb color photos imaginatively displayed and a lively, informative text give readers an inkling of the incredible collection of aviation and space history and artifacts assembled by this Smithsonian museum.

* THE NEW YORK ART REVIEW, edited by Les Krantz. New York: Macmillan. 217 pp. galleries. Includes black-and-white and color illustrations and an artist index. FICTION

* SHOELESS JOE, by W.P. Kinsella. New York: Ballantine. 224 pp. $2.95. A fantasy about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball diamond on his farm so that ''Shoeless Joe'' Jackson, a legendary baseball star banned from the game for alleged complicity in throwing the 1919 World Series, will come back and play on it. Other baseball players from the past turn up as well. The book will appeal to anyone looking for entertaining reading.

* FLANAGAN'S RUN, by Tom McNab. New York: Avon Books. 444 pp. $3.95. The day is March 21, 1931. Over 2,000 men and women jostle for position in the Los Angeles Coliseum, ready to take on the 3,000-mile Trans-America Road Race organized by a shrewd, flashy showman, Charles C. Flanagan. America rallies around the pack, as the runners press relentlessly through punishing desert sun and mountain terrain toward the $300,000 prize beckoning in New York. An unusually readable book.

* THE WHITE DAWN, by James Houston. San Diego: A Harvest/HBJ Book. 275 pp. $5 .95. Adventure based on fact: A New Bedford whaler puts out all its boats off Baffin Bay. One harpoonist strikes his target, and the whale tows the boat out of sight into an Arctic fog. The survivors, lost in a world as alien as another planet, are rescued and taken to an Eskimo village ruled by a patriarch - only to find themselves out of sync with Arctic man and nature.

* CITIZEN TOM PAINE, by Howard Fast. New York: Grove Press. 341 pp. $6.95. A biographical novel about writer-revolutionary Tom Paine, who came to Philadelphia from England and published a little book called ''Common Sense'' that spread like wildfire - practically every man in the Colonial Army carrying a dog-eared copy. His ''Crisis'' papers helped keep the revolution alive, and his ''Age of Reason'' caused him to be imprisoned when he returned to England, where he spent his final years as an object of ridicule.

* THE PORTAGE TO SAN CRISTOBAL OF A.H., by George Steiner. New York: Pocket Books-Washington Square Press. 170 pp. $3.95. Steiner, a brilliant writer on morals, philosophy, and linguistics, imagines that Israeli Nazi-hunters finally succeed in locating Hitler in the jungles of Brazil, and then he describes the diverse reactions this fact causes around the world. The result is scintillating - an intellectual, literary tour de force.

* THE GIRL OF THE SEA OF CORTEZ, by Peter Benchley. New York: Berkeley Books. 229 pp. $3.50. A real-life experience of riding a king-size manta ray off Baja California is the basis of this Benchley novel, packed with plenty of fascinating sea lore. One reads about the formations called seamounts, learns where pearl oysters grow, and gets a glimpse of the trust that can exist between man and the unfamiliar creatures of the deep.

* SPRING MOON: A Novel of China, by Bette Bao Lord. New York: Avon Books. 464 pp. $3.95. A novel set against a 100-year panorama of events in China, focusing on the members of a privileged family whose world is collapsing around them. Incidents include the dissolution of the Manchu Empire, the attempt to establish a republic, two Japanese wars, the struggle between right-wingers and Communists , and the latter's seizure of the country.

* MARCO POLO, IF YOU CAN, by William F. Buckley. New York: Avon. 262 pp. $3. 50. Blackford Oakes, the derring-do spy hero of this and three earlier novels, is re-recruited into the fold for a special assignment. ''Blackie'' dashes about the world in pursuit of a ''mole'' who has penetrated the National Security Council. Oakes's escapades are interspersed with appearances by actual historical figures - Khrushchev, Eisenhower, Dean Acheson. GENERAL NONFICTION

* STEAMING TOWARDS BAMBOOLA, by Christopher Buckley. New York: Congdon & Weed Inc. 219 pp. $7.95. Buckley traveled aboard the tramp steamer Columbianna in 1979 from Charleston, S.C., to the North Sea port of Bremerhaven and then back to New Orleans. His account of the trip is rich in detail, reflected in vivid prose. The best reading is the description of characters, who seem more like a human collage than a crew.

* THE GREAT BRIDGE; The Epic Story of the Building of Brooklyn Bridge, by David McCullough. New York: Touchstone Books. 636 pp. $9.95. A phenomenal achievement in research and writing, treating the Brooklyn Bridge from its conception to its opening and beyond. The Roeblings, who carried out the construction; Boss Tweed; Henry Ward Beecher; and a host of other characters appear throughout this engrossing story.

* SYLVIA PORTER'S YOUR OWN MONEY BOOK, by Sylvia Porter. New York: Avon Books. 815 pp. $12.95. For teen-agers and young people taking first flights from the home nest, this book is the ''everything you need to know'' on making and managing money. Porter, a nationally known financial advisor, packs her book with common-sense advice in such areas as budgeting money, banking, and organizing personal records. Guidance is included on investment options, the job market, careers and more.

* OLD GLORY: An American Voyage, by Jonathan Raban. New York: Penguin. 409 pp. $6.95. Britisher Raban's account of his 1979 trip along the Mississippi in a 16-foot aluminum power boat. The trip was inspired by nostalgia for his childhood reading of Mark Twain's ''Huckleberry Finn.'' Raban focuses on the role of the Mississippi in America's self-creation and on the country's recent decline from a sense of purposefulness and power.

* THE EDUCATION OF KOKO, by Francine Patterson and Eugene Lindon. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 224 pp. $7.95. Patterson tells of her experiments in discovering the mental abilities and language aptitudes of apes with the gorilla Koko and her future mate Michael. Patterson describes their play, including: signing to themselves when they think they're not being watched; swearing; word innovations; lies; evidence of imagination, gossip, and dreams.

* CHINA: ALIVE IN THE BITTER SEA, by Fox Butterfield. New York: Bantam. 468 pp. $9.95. Without ponderous descriptions of bureaucracy, New York Times correspondent Butterfield focuses on the impact of the Communist Chinese system on the average citizen - producing vivid portraits of people, places, and moods - as well as the deterioration in cultural life under Mao and his successors.

* FABULOUS CHICAGO, by Emmett Dedmon. New York: Atheneum. 449 pp. $9.95. The Chicago journalist presents over 100 well-documented contemporary sketches that answer most of the questions one is likely to have about a town that grew in just over a century from swampland to the nation's second city.

* THE FATE OF THE EARTH, by Jonathan Schell. New York: Avon Books. 244 pp. $2 .50. No other book on the threat of nuclear arms speaks as clearly or sensitively to the layman, or encompasses the cultural, moral, and spiritual as well as technological and political considerations. Must reading for those who want to understand the issues and implications.

* LETTERS FROM THE COUNTRY, by Carol Bly. New York: Penguin. 184 pp. $4.95. An unusual collection of stern, perceptive, and loving short essays that originally appeared in the Minnesota Monthly. Some emphasize the spiritual side of rural life, others the social side; it is Bly's great strength to see them as inseparable in the everyday world.

* SLAVERY AND FREEDOM, by Willie Rose Lee, edited by William W. Freehling. New York: Oxford University Press. 254 pp. $7.95. A scholarly, lucid, balanced collection of essays, book reviews, and speeches - dispassionate, yet wrenching. Rose examines how history is often rewritten to suit the temper of the times - and punctures some staunchly held myths in the process.

* FROM HOUSEWIFE TO HERETIC, by Sonia Johnson. New York: Anchor/Doubleday. 408 pp. $8.95. This is the story of Johnson's discovery of feminism in 1976, her subsequent excommunication from the Mormon Church in 1979 for her feminist beliefs, and her work on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. It is also the story of one woman's search for faith and identity. Mrs. Johnson describes the ''effort to know God'' as ''the most basic, most important of philosophical struggles.''

* PRACTICING HISTORY: Selected Essays, by Barbara W. Tuchman. New York: Ballantine Books. 306 pp. $7.95. Tuchman's illuminations about writing history apply to all forms of communication, including both giver and receiver. The author shares her trade secrets in a most entertaining way. She shows how anecdotes rescue historical figures from the misty past and present them as real people.BIOGRAPHY

* PAVAROTTI: MY OWN STORY, with William Wright. New York: Warner Books. 320 pp. $3.95. Through the eyes of a man of zest and humor, as well as some of his friends, the world of opera unfolds for those who know little about it. In addition to opera, Pavarotti's views on food, painting, Italy, today's youth, and other subjects reveal a man constantly seeking to grow. Most of all, the singer expresses an infectious love of life.

* HUNGER OF MEMORY: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez. New York: Bantam. 195 pp. $3.95. This autobiography tells of a Mexican-American who, by outdistancing his peers of common ancestry and far surpassing his parents, relinquished his ''cultural identity'' for the anonymity of the educated middle class. He weighs sorrowful loss against ultimate gain.

* BARYSHNIKOV: From Russia to the West, by Gennady Smakov. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc. 244 pp. $9.95. Accompanied by rare photographs, the book follows Baryshnikov from childhood to stardom with the Kirov Ballet, describing how the dancer's frustration with the repertory, plus political constraints, led to his 1974 defection. It continues with Baryshnikov's career, from his debut with the American Ballet Theater to his current role as its artistic director. LETTERS

* LETTERS FROM AMELIA, by Jean L. Backus. Boston: Beacon Press. 253 pp. $9.95 . These letters from Amelia Earhart to her mother show the whimsical and often touching side of this famous woman. While the letters could hardly have avoided the subject of flying, Earhart's belief in the safety of aviation, and her commitment to proving women pilots were as capable as men, the heart of these often brief notes is the resiliency of the relationship between mother and daughter.

* LETTERS OF A WOMAN HOMESTEADER, by Elinor Pruitt Stewart. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 282 pp. $5.95. First published in 1914, these lively letters from a former washerwoman who moved with her family from Colorado to Wyoming in the early 1900s are packed with the action of pioneer life. She writes of day-to-day work on her homestead as well as of colorful Western characters she knew. NATURE

* A GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, Vol. 1., written and illustrated by Donald W. Stokes. Illustrations by J. Fenwick Lansdowne. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 336 pp. $8.95. A useful handbook, which not only identifies 25 common backyard, city park, and countryside birds but goes into behavior patterns seldom recognized by even the most serious birders. A description of each species is given, along with information about mating habits, nesting, calls, territories, plumage, migration, and much more.

* COMMON GROUND: A Naturalist's Cape Cod, by Robert Finch. Boston: David R. Godine. 142 pp. $8.95. Finch, a backyard conservationist who writes a weekly nature column, has an eye on the universal horizon. The lesson he learns from chasing a pigeon hawk on Nauset Beach he passes along to readers everywhere: While modern man needs the stability of nature, there are limits to nature's capacity to supply the needs of the human heart. One gains much from these previously published essays. SPORTS AND RECREATION

* THE COMPLETE BOOK OF LONG-DISTANCE AND COMPETITIVE CYCLING, by Tom Doughty, Ed Pavelka, and Barbara George. New York: Simon & Schuster. 380 pp. $8.95. Even if you're not enthusiastic to begin with, you'll soon be won over by the three authors - an Olympic racing cyclist and the editor and publisher of a prominent cycling magazine. They cover their subject right down to the last spoke and sprocket, with expert advice on bicycle maintenance, planning a tour, training and feeding of riders, and much more.

* WINNING CROQUET: From Backyard to Greensward, by Jack Osborn and Jesse Kornbluth. New York: Simon & Schuster. 224 pp. $9.95. Finally, here's a comprehensive croquet book that will arm you with the rules accepted by USCA (United States Croquet Association). There's also a lot on the court and equipment, scorekeeping, grips, swings, stances, strategy, drills, and winning. Just keep the book well hidden from your competitors!

* THE EDDIE BAUER GUIDE TO FAMILY CAMPING, by Archie Satterfield and Eddie Bauer. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. 224 pp. $8.95. Camping, the most popular form of outdoor recreation in North America, is also a perfect activity for strengthening family bonds. In this finely illustrated book, the author answers basic questions for the camping novice: how-to tips on choosing a camp site, setting up camp, cooking, and selecting the right equipment, plus other seasoned-campers' ''secrets.''

* HOW TO SELECT AND USE OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT, by Barclay Kruse & the REI Staff. Tucson, Ariz.: HPBooks (PO Box 5367, 85703). 160 pp. $9.95. Written by experienced campers, this book gives the facts on making intelligent buys for your camping needs. The authors cover a wide spectrum of outdoor activities, including hiking, cross-country skiing, and canoeing. A helpful book for the beginning or experienced outdoor enthusiast.

* HOW TO TALK BASEBALL, by Mike Whiteford. New York: Dembner Books. 144 pp. $ 6.95. The colorful vocabulary that distinguishes baseball's true believers mystifies the uninitiated. The book's first section offers 12 short profiles of men who have ''enriched baseball's lore and language,'' including manager Casey Stengel and sportswriter Red Smith. This is followed by a glossary of baseball terms from ''ace'' to ''yellow hammer.'' ART, FILM

* MAKING TOOTSIE: A Film Study With Dustin Hoffman & Sydney Pollack, by Susan Sworkin. New York: Newmarket Press. 120 pp. $7.95. This book abounds with anecdotes about the makeup and costuming challenges of transforming Dustin Hoffman into a woman in the popular film. But at the heart of the text is the actor's search for the artistic truths that would make Dorothy Michaels real. In the process, he learns a great deal about what it's like to be a woman. A winner for film buffs.

* LULU IN HOLLYWOOD, by Louise Brooks. Introduction by William Shawn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 109 pp. $7.95. A Kansas girl who went through the Hollywood artifice mill, saw its tinseled tragedies, lived its broken life, and gained a small niche in film history now looks back at the perverse and tawdry scenes. She is less censorious than she ought to be, but is determined to set the record straight about how Hollywood dominates its talent - on and off the screen.

* ORIGINALS: Women in Art, by Eleanor Munro. New York: Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster. 528 pp. $12.95. A compilation of biographies and a critical analysis of the work of nearly 50 women artists of three generations - among them Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keeffe. Munro, a former art critic, tells how dissatisfaction with formal criticism led her to develop a method of ''circular biography'' showing connections between vivid childhood memories and artistic imagery. HISTORY

* THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF HABSBURG, by Edward Crankshaw. New York: Penguin. 459 pp. $7.95. A view of Austria and its rulers, who for almost 700 years played a leading role in the history of Europe. Crankshaw deals exhaustively and interestingly with Franz Josef and his era - when tremendous changes occurred in the fields of politics, music, painting, and literature.

* MARY CHESNUT'S CIVIL WAR, edited by C. Vann Woodward. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. 886 pp. $14.95. Woodward, Yale's Sterling professor emeritus of history, spent over five years researching and establishing a definitive edition of the memoirs by Mary Chesnut, first published in 1905. This edition guarantees that her account will take its rightful place as an American classic.

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