Bismarck, Bleichroeder and the Building of the German Empire, by Fritz Stern (Knopf, $17.95). In this treatment of the financial aspects of Bismarck's achievement and the little-known expert who helped him to amass and use money as a source of power, the author also presents, as background, a complex, powerful study of the position of Jews in the German Empire.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHAUCER, by John Gardner (Knopf, $12.50) A novelist and middle-English scholar examines vividly but with scholarly precision the busy political and personal life of one of England's greatest writers.

WOMEN OF THE SHADOWS, by Ann Cornelisen (Vintage paperback; $3.95).The story of a small number of women who were born and live in the arid and poverty-stricken country-side of southern Italy is told here with compassion and insight. Cornelison approaches the women not as a reformer but as a friend of many years standing. They tell her of the struggle to survive, of too many children, of husbands forced to find work in the factories of Germany and Yugoslavia and the never-ending circle of poverty and lack of education. From their despair and frustration, Ann Cornelisen has produced a moving chronicle.

CONDOMINIUM, by John D. MacDonald (Lippincott, $10(. Disaster strikes a jerry-built high-rise on Florida's Gulf Coast in a complex suspense novel that is, in part, a brief against the rape of MacDonald's own home state of Florida by developers.