FICTION

The Balkan Trilogy

and

The Levant Trilogy

, by Olivia Manning (Penguin, $9.95 and $8.95 respectively). Now being dramatized on public television's Masterpiece Theatre, Olivia Manning's six novels about a British couple caught up in the tides of war have already captivated viewers. Unrivalled for their gallery of colorful expatriates, they capture with exceptional fidelity the terrors and uncertainties of the early days of World War II, as Guy and Harriet Pringle explore some of the more unfamiliar corners of the European and Mediterranean world -- one step ahead of Hitler's legions.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

, by Brian Moore (Atlantic-Little, Brown, $$6.95). Published in 1955, this was the author's first novel and some would say, with The Feast of Lupercal, among his best. It tells the story of a middle-aged, shabby-genteel spinster, newly moved into a Belfast rooming house from Dublin. Her devout Catholic faith and her physical need for love interact, and the result is a startling yet compassionate commentary on the human condition.

Stones for Ibarra

, by Harriet Doerr (Penguin, $6.95). This new edition of Harriet Doerr's distinguished first novel is being released to coincide with the broadcast of a dramatization on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. If the television adaptation brings more readers to the book, that will be all to the good. Stones for Ibarra is the story of an American husband and wife who move from San Francisco to a small town in Mexico; they hope to reopen a copper mine abandoned years ago by the husband's grandfather. They find much more in Mexico, though, than copper: their resettlement becomes an exercise in intercultural understanding and, more privately, for reawakening a marriage under terrible circumstances. The novel received an American Book Award for First Fiction in 1984.

NONFICTION

Art and Architecture in Italy 1250-1400

, by John White;

The Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250

, by Richard Ettinghausen and Oleg Grabar (Penguin, $18.95 each). The Pelican History of Art, of which these are two volumes, stakes out that difficult ground between the specialist study and the popular introduction. Each book is written by a recognized authority, is chock-a-block with illustrations and provides a readable and reliable account of a period or style. White's book surveys the early Renaissance, the time of Cimabue, Giotto and Duccio, bringing in much apposite social history; the volume on Islamic art covers manuscript and book illumination, silver and gold work, mosques and the decorative arts. Both are books to read as well as refer to.

Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965

, by Juan Williams with the Eyes on the Prize Team (Penguin, $10.95). School desegregation, the Emmett Till Murder Case, Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Letters From a Birmingham Jail, Little Rock High School, Bull O'Connor, the March on Washington -- for many, these words and names, though associated with tragic events, evoke the most stirring and impassioned memories. This book tells what it was like to live in America during during the decade 1958-1968. Eloquently written and reported and fully illustrated, it is the companion to the public television series of the same name. The author is a staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

, by Richard Rhodes (Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, $12.95). Winner of the 1987 National Book Critics Circle and National Book Awards, this richly detailed history of the invention of the first nuclear-fission weapons begins in the ivory towers of academe and ends 25 years later in the horrifying destruction of Hiroshima. The merit of the work lies in its colorful portraits of the members of a small circle of scientists from many lands who collaborated on the unlocking of the atom's secrets -- Szilard, Teller, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Meitner, Fermi, Lawrence and von Neumann -- and in the immense and vivid detail the author brings to the telling of his dramatic story.

The Rise and Fall of an American Army: U.S. Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1965-1973

, by Shelby L. Stanton (Dell, $4.95). This is a battlefield history of U.S. ground forces in the Vietnam War. Covering both the U.S. Army and Marines, it tries to show the war from the vantage of the "soldier on the point," and not as seen from Washington or Saigon. The record of individual combat units is followed in some detail, and the descriptions of firefights are exceptionally vivid. The frustrations of an inconclusive conflict are amply documented.

Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy

, by John Malcolm Brinnin (Delta, $9.95). John Malcolm Brinnin knew Truman Capote for 35 years, from the time they met as young literary lions ensconced at the Yaddo residence for artists until the latter's death. Although Brinnin has not become, like his buddy, a household word, he has enjoyed a distinguished career as poet, critic and teacher, and this memoir is lucid and intimate without stooping to the level of cattiness where Capote spent so much of the last decade of his life.

Atlas of World History

(Rand McNally, $17.95). For those in love with maps and pictures, here is a world to dream over. The grandeur that was Rome becomes clear in a map of the Empire at its height -- virtually every bit of land adjoining the Mediterranean appears in pink. Other pages depict the Europes of Charlemagne, Napoleon and Hitler, the industrial growth of the U.S. and the Middle East since 1945.

Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art

, by Anne Sheppard (Oxford, $7.95). Early in this useful book, the author poses a question that few book reviewers care to take time to address. Just what is it that makes one so sure that Jane Austen is a better writer than, say, Barbara Cartland? Though never answering that question in 25 words or less, Anne Sheppard presents the range of criteria which various "aestheticians" have brought to bear on it, including Tolstoy's theory that art is "the contagion of feeling" and, au contraire, Collingwood's exclusion of emotion-laden literature from the realm of "art proper." English dons -- of which Sheppard is an exemplar -- excel at this sort of elucidation, and hers is a fine example -- complete with reproductions of paintings -- of its kind.