Bearing Witness: A Photographic Chronicle of American Life, 1860-1945, by Michael Lesy (Pantheon, $15; hardcover, $17.50). Michael Lesy is that rare bird, a photographic historian, with credentials that include a doctorate in American history. Readers may remember his sensitive evocation of Midwestern life in Wisconsin Death Trip; here he publishes the results of his wandering -- research is surely too formal a word, given the size of the collection -- through the at least 15 million photographs in the Library of Congress. Lesy's success at selecting photographs is immediately evident in this new book which beautfully documents the restless sweep and diversity of American life in the period 1860 to 1945. Perhaps Lesy is a bit of a romanticist, but who cares, given the gleanings of poetry in this cavalcade of images of our national life?

Personal Impressions, by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy (Penguin, $6.95). In his long and distinguished career Isaiah Berlin has come across a matchless array of important persons: men and women with whom he has visited, taken tea, dined, but, most importantly, talked. Maurice Bowra, Aldous Huxley, Felix Frankfurter, L.B. Namier . . . the list goes on. We have Henry Hardy to thank for collecting Berlin's portraits of them all. Together they make up a prose gallery than is both witty and colorful.