A Biography, by David Walder (Dial/James Wade, $14.95). Admiral Horatio Nelson was a complex, emergetic ocentric leader who expected every man to do his duty and lost his life doing his own. This new biography vividly recreates the experience of the ships of war that fought in the Battle of Trafalgar and the man who called them.

A PLACE FOR NOAH, by Josh Greenfeld (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, $10. A moving diary of how a family comes to cope with, love, and understand their brain-damaged son, with the special insights offered by this particular family of professional writers.

FINAL PAYMENTS, by Mary Gordon (Random House, $8.95). An arresting first-person novel of a 30-year-old woman from Queens emerging for the first time into the world after caring for an invalid father almost all of bar life, and how she deals with what and whom the finds there.

A FAMILY TRUST, by Ward Just (Atlantic/Littie, Brown, $8.95). Just's most ambitious novel examines the relationships and tensions among three generations of a Midwest newspaper family. As the family and its business evolve over decades, and the old order gives way to the new, they reflect a changing America and the altered spirit of a region.

THE YOUNG HAMILTON: A Biography, by James Thomas Flexner (Little, Brown, $15). This highly skilled, though speculative, biography follows Hamilton's childhood struggles with illegitimacy and humiliation, and explains the decisions of the man by the agonies of the child.

WHISTLE, by James Jones (Delacorte, $10.95). Jones' last book, published posthumously, concludes the fiction trilogy begun with From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line, and reveals the author's sympathetic understanding of the common soldier's experience during World War II.