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Between soft covers: a nuclear warning, Tom Wolfe, private eyes

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Never read a book that is not a year old. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

When David Bradley's No Place to Hide (University of New England Press, $8.95 ) was first published in 1948, not enough people paid attention to what he said. After 35 years of arms-race-watching, after ''The Day After,'' we now know how right he was.

Dr. Bradley, a physician, was one of the scientific, military, and technical multitude assembled to study the aftereffects of atomic weapons tested at Bikini Atoll in July 1946, less than a year after the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ''No Place to Hide'' is the journal he kept.

This new edition contains an epilogue written last year, as well as an appendix on the dangers of radioactivity. Bradley's book is prophetic, humane, instructive, and distressingly timely; those who want to know how we arrived at our present state of concern about nuclear devices need to read this book.

''It is the most supremely interesting moment in life,'' wrote Alice James to her brother William a year before her death, ''the only one in fact, when living seems life, and I count it as the greatest good fortune to have these few months so full of interest and instruction in the knowledge of my approaching death.''

Morbid? At times. But for Alice James, a younger sister of novelist Henry and philosopher William, death was the main preoccupation of life, something Ruth Bernard Yeazell's very fine biographical essay makes clear in The Death and Letters of Alice James (University of California Press, $7.95).

Like her famous brothers, Alice James wrote well and suffered from numerous unclassifiable illnesses; ''neurasthenia, like intelligence, seems to have run in the family,'' Yeazell says. A fascinating book. Those who agree should look for Jean Strouse's ''Alice James, A Biography'' (Bantam, $4.95) and ''The Diary of Alice James'' (Penguin, $4.95).

Wolfgang Hildesheimer's Mozart (Vintage, $8.95) is a maddening and difficult biography; it also assumes a fair amount of interest and knowledge of the composer. Although Hildesheimer is from start to finish a fan of Mozart the musician, he seems to have a different agenda for Mozart the man.


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