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Between soft covers

Never read a book that is not a year old. - Ralph Waldo Emerson A strange but vibrant brew of the fantastic, rural gothic, hilarious, and (maybe?) the autobiographical is what Howard Frank Mosher's Disappearances (Boston, David R. Godine, $8.95) is ... and then some. It's the story of Quebec Bill Bonhomme, a whiskey-runner, small farmer, and very big American dreamer for whom hope is an inexhaustible resource and for whom improbable adventures are routine. A remarkable and wonderful book.

Sacajawea (New York, Avon, $5.95), by Anna Lee Waldo, is a very long, impeccably researched novel that lived on the best-seller list some six years ago. It contains as much as you will likely ever want to know about the Indian woman associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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John Lennon was one of the great popular artists of our (and any other) time, and Jan Wiener's Come Together (New York, Random House, $10.95) takes its title from one of the hundreds of songs Lennon wrote (or co-wrote) for the Beatles. Wiener introduces much information that the FBI collected on Lennon; talks of Lennon's politics; and discusses his relationship with Yoko Ono. An interview with Ono is included, too.

''As a teacher of women's history ... I wrote this book to be completely self-serving. I wanted a comprehensive treatment which would incorporate the recent specialized literature on 19th-century women while providing a general social-history overview of the era.'' And that is what Catherine Clinton got in The Other Civil War (New York, Hill & Wang, $7.25).

Seymour M. Hersh's The Price of Power (New York, Simon & Schuster/Summit, $9. 95) won many prizes, among them the National Book Critics Circle award for General Nonfiction. This thick book is extraordinary in its detail about Henry Kissinger's years in the Nixon White House: a truly great piece of investigative reporting.

In his introduction, A. K. Dewdney calls Flatland (New York, NAL/Signet Classic, $2.95) ''that strange and charming 19th-century tabletop microcosm, source of speculation, and mirror of metaphysics.'' The world Edwin A. Abbott created is two-dimensional, and the novel, originally published 100 years ago, is odd but intriguing.

Shakespeare, says Norman Rabkin in Shakespeare and the Common Understanding (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, $9.95), ''creates illusory worlds which, like the world we feel about us, make sense in ways that constantly elude our power to articulate them rationally and yet seem to represent the truth better than rational articulation.'' Rabkin, a professor of English at the University of California, knows his drama thoroughly and explains it well.

If you're looking for crime novels with a lot of punch, try the very, very tough novels featuring Parker by Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). The Hunter, The Outfit, The Mourner, and The Man with the Getaway Face (New York , Avon, $2.50 each) are all beautifully paced, tautly composed, and originally published in the early 1960s.

Fans of the military will want to know of A General's Life (New York, Simon & Schuster/Summit, $12.95), an autobiography of the late Omar N. Bradley, the man his fellow general Dwight D. Eisenhower called the greatest field general of World War II. Clay Blair finished this book after Bradley's death in 1981, and it is as good a look at the American military over the last 40-odd years as you are likely to find.

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The science of astronomy has benefited enormously from the technology of telescopes, and in the last few years has told us about such entities as quasars , black holes, and pulsars. Observing the Universe (New York, Basil Blackwell & New Scientist, $8.95), edited by Nigel Henbest, collects 42 articles by scientists and science writers about the state of modern astronomy.

Stephen Shore is the Walker Evans of our time, or so his photographs suggest. The places that appear in the plates of Uncommon Places (Millerton, N.Y., Aperture, $15) are common, but are made luminous by Shore. Along with Joel Meyerowitz and a few others, he is one of our best color photographers.

''Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, and H. G. Wells were, in 1900, neighbors,'' writes Nicholas Delbanco in Group Portrait (New York , William Morrow, $5.95), and that fact is the point of departure for his book. Delbanco's history treats the year 1900 and the exchanges these writers had with each other in what approximated an artistic community. The work is good, as is the spirit that informs it.''I love to read these novelists,'' says Delbanco, ''and hope that others will.''

Fans of John D. McDonald's Travis McGee had better have their colors straight , at least as they relate to McDonald's titles, if they are to answer the many questions in The Official Travis McGee Quiz Book (New York, Fawcett, $2.25), assembled by John Brogan. As McDonald says in the introduction, ''Good luck out there with this thing!''

''When 50 men and women, chiefs of their corporations, control more than half the information and ideas that reach 220 million Americans, it is time for Americans to examine the institutions from which they receive their daily picture of the world.'' And that is what Ben Bagdikian does in The Media Monopoly (Boston, Beacon Press, $8.95), a book this newspaper called ''a groundbreaking work.''

This is the time of year when a lot of fishing is done, so why not hear from an ''angling addict,'' Nick Lyons? His The Seasonable Angler (Tulsa, Okla., Winchester Press, $9.95) is not a guidebook, nor is it a how-to. No, it's an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods walk through a year in the life of a fisherman. Heavily anecdotal.

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