NONFICTION

Words on Music: From Addison to Barzun

, edited by Jack Sullivan (Ohio University Press, $39.95; paperback, $19.95). No art form has more emotional punch than music, and none is harder to describe in words. Still, some of our greatest writers, composers and performers have tried to capture in language the particular beauty of, say, Schubert's C Major quintet, or the distinctive genius of Mozart, Berlioz or Stravinsky. In this anthology the musical novice or aficionado can read George Eliot on Wagner, G.K. Chesterton on Gilbert and Sullivan, Leonard Bernstein on Mahler, Guy Davenport on Charles Ives, Ned Rorem on Ravel, Andrew Porter on Boulez, and many others. Editor Sullivan contributes a fine survey of the the history and practice of literary music criticism, as well as valuable and concise "program notes" for each essay.

This Is War! A Photo-Narrative of the Korean War

, by David Douglas Duncan (Little, Brown, $29.95). This year marks the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, and numerous volumes of reminiscence are appearing, none of which will very much change the conflict's reputation as "the forgotten war." Athough not a television war in the sense that Vietnam was, some very distinguished combat photography came out of Korea, of which the very finest was undoubtedly the work of David Douglas Duncan. A former Marine, Duncan knew his subject well. His photographs of dog-tired, battle-fatigued GIs, especially the U.S. Marines retreating from the Chosin Reservoir carrying their dead along with them, have no equal.

Korean War Almanac

, by Harry G. Summers Jr. (Facts on File, $24.95). A companion to the author's excellent Vietnam War Almanac, this compendium of facts puts all the minutiae of a brutal and exhausting 37-month conflict at one's fingertips. The result should satisfy the most critical military expert as well as the less demanding general reader.

The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea

, by James Brady (Orion Books, $19.95). The former publisher of Women's Wear Daily and editor-in-chief of New York magazine was in 1950 a shavetail Marine lieutenant in Korea, facing a million-man Chinese Army unexpectedly debouching from Manchuria across the Yalu River. In Brady's war, desperate fighting alternated with the usual confusion and boredom of military life. He is certainly right about the cold: Any veteran of Korea will remember the bone-chilling winds that whipped down mountain valleys and the complete absence of any place to get warm.

Sing a Pretty Song: The "Offbeat" Life of Edie Adams, Including the Ernie Kovacs Years

, by Edie Adams and Robert Windeler (Morrow, $19.95). In addition to maintaining a long career as singer, comedian and pitchwoman for Muriel Cigars, Edie Adams was the wife of Ernie Kovacs, one of the legendary originals of early television, whose gambling and income-tax troubles cast a pall over their otherwise happy marriage. (He died in an auto accident in 1962.) Her television star-turn was a baby-voiced, tremulous-lipped imitation of Marilyn Monroe, whom she resembled. Perhaps on the strength of that resemblance, she was propositioned by President John Kennedy. As she explains in the caption to a photo of them, "I didn't -- but it was not because I wasn't asked." Once Adams complained to Shirley MacLaine of feeling guilty for having traveled so far on the train of Monroe's gown. Don't worry about it, MacLaine advised, "we're all just a can of peas."

Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864

, by Duane Schultz (St. Martin's, $19.95). Its perpetrators tried to pass it off as an episode of glory. They claimed to have marched 300 miles in 10 days and to have outfought a force of 1,000 Cheyenne warriors with a smaller one of 700 U.S. soldiers. The truth, however, fell short of this idealization. There were 1,000 Cheyenne all right, but only 200 of these were warriors; the rest were mostly women and children, and the attack came while they were asleep in their lodges. Moreover, the village had been promised government protection and was flying the American flag to prove it. This history of one of the shabbiest incidents in American Indian affairs recounts the butchery at Sand Creek and sketches the furious warfare that flowed from it, culminating a dozen years later in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.