Soviet Choreographers in the 1920s

, by Elizabeth Souritz (Duke University Press, $29.95). Following the 1917 Revolution, the great lyric theaters in Leningrad and Moscow, the Maryinsky and the Bolshoi, were regarded by the Bolsheviks with great suspicion, their dance companies having formerly been subsidized directly by the imperial court. As the 1920s progressed, Soviet ballet entered an immensely creative period, experimenting in dance forms in ways that were unparalleled in the West. This readable and beautifully organized history of the Soviet dance avant-garde conveys the cultural excitement as innovators clashed with traditionalists and pure dance battled with propaganda. The work also sheds much light on the early careers of George Balanchine, who became choreographer of the New York City Ballet, and Mikhail Mordkin, whose troupe devolved into the American Ballet Theater.

Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization

, by Christopher Manes (Little, Brown, $18.95). "Earth First! is the only activist Green group around," says its co-founder, Dave Foreman. "The others are only debating societies." Using such extreme techniques as driving spikes into trees that it doesn't want logged (the spikes are harmless to the trees but occasionally cause injuries to timbermen who ignore warnings not to cut them), Earth First! is anything but a debating society. For those who want to argue, however, this book by a law student who used to edit the group's newsletter presents the radical view of global environmental issues -- and the crafty implication is that it's up to some other outfit to articulate the Earth Second! outlook.

Mud, Muscle, and Miracles: Marine Salvage in the United States Navy

, by Capt. C.A. ("Black Bart") Bartholomew (Government Printing Office, $32). Here is the fascinating modern history of one of the U.S. Navy's most specialized and unsung branches, the extraordinarily dedicated men who are the Navy's divers and salvors. From righting the enormous hulk of the French Line's Normandie, capsized at a West Side Manhattan pier after a 1941 fire, to finding every fragment of the spacecraft Challenger, scattered over hundreds of square miles of ocean bottom off Cape Canaveral in 1986, their job has never been easy. All their tasks seem daunting, whether it be raising a foundered submarine, rescuing its trapped crew, refloating a bombed battleship or finding a crashed jetliner's voice recorder on the ocean floor. How these daunting feats of engineering are performed is fully explained in this comprehensive and well illustrated work. The author makes clear, however, that despite sonar and remotely operated vehicles, marine salvage depends, at bottom, on the men who go down, not to the sea, but to the pitch-black, oily, oozing mud of the sea bottom.

An American Hero: The Red Adair Story

, by Philip Singerman (Little, Brown, $18.95). It's not every firefighter whom John Wayne portrays (in a movie called "Hellfighters"), but then Red Adair does not fight ordinary fires. Oil-well conflagrations are what he puts out, like the one in Algeria that shot flames 800 feet into the air. (They called it The Devil's Cigarette Lighter, and John Glenn could see it from his spacecraft-in-orbit 200 miles above the earth.) Adair has been dousing flames for more than 50 years; this authorized biography chronicles his life and hot times.