Maud Gonne, by Nancy Cardozo (New Amsterdam, $14.95). First published under the title "Lucky Eyes and a High Heart," this biography of the Irish revolutionary who was the lifelong love of the poet W.B. Yeats is as much the story of 20th-century Irish politics as it is of a memorably beautiful and charismatic woman. Born in England in 1866 into an upper-class military family, Maud made the independence of Ireland from England her passion: She drew people to her cause with her charm and eloquence, edited an Irish nationalist newspaper in Paris, married Maj. John MacBride, who was executed by the British after the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin, and later became an active Sinn Feiner. She died in 1953, still possessing what Yeats had called "that nobleness made simple as a fire,/ With beauty like a tightened bow . . ."
The Life of Andrew Jackson, by Robert V. Remini (Penguin, $10.95). When the seventh president of the United States roared into office, everyone knew it was a victory of the West over the East and soft money over hard. He ordered the Cherokee Indians removed from the South, embarking them on their "Trail of Tears," and indeed wanted all Eastern Indians sent west of the Mississippi. He told South Carolinians they had been seduced by "ambitious, deluded & designing men" for asserting a state's right to annul a federal law and was prepared to send troops to back up his words. Old Hickory was the bridge between classical republicanism and popular democracy, a fellow very much larger than life and no friend at all of big-city bankers. This biography is the abridgement of the authoritative three-volume edition by the leading Jackson scholar.
My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan, by Nancy Reagan with William Novak (Dell, $5.95). Asserts the former first lady, "Every marriage finds its own balance. It's part of Ronnie's character not to confront certain problems, so I'm usually the one who brings up the tough subjects -- which often makes me seem like the bad guy."
Letters from the Leelanau, by Kathleen Stocking (Michigan, $13.95; hardcover, $22.95). The Leelanau Peninsula is that part of Michigan at the head of Lake Michigan across from Green Bay and Dorr County, Wis. It is a place of sand dunes, gentle hills, shade trees, wood violets and wild turkeys, where in winter the Northern Lights sometimes flare up in the wee hours of the morning. True, some condominium developments have sprung up, but when summer's over the calm returns and some mornings the loudest sounds are the hammering of the redwing woodpeckers. The author of these charming essays lived in Ann Arbor in the radical '60s and in New York in the swinging '70s. Now, after a decade of living in the the Leelanau (a madeup Indian word), the rest of the country seems unduly excitable.
The Quality of Hurt: The Autobiography of Chester Himes, the Early Years, and My Life of Absurdity: The Autobiography of Chester Himes, the Later Years, by Chester Himes (Paragon House, each $12.95). Chester Himes is best remembered as the author of the novels featuring the detectives Coffin Ed Smith and Gravedigger Jones, but in his long life (Himes was born in 1909 and died in 1984) he was many things. He taught himself to write while serving 7 1/2 years of a 20- to 25-year prison sentence for a jewelry robbery. While still in prison, he began to publish stories in magazines like Esquire. An advocate of black revolution in the 1940s, Himes became an expatriate in Europe, where he finally found respect as an artist and seemed to find some measure of happiness.
Reading the Mind of God: In Search of the Principle of Universality, by James Trefil (Anchor/Doubleday, $9.95). Wandering in an English orchard one day in the 17th century a man named Isaac Newton noticed an apple fall from a tree and, at the same time, the moon in the sky behind it. In what George Mason University physics professor James Trefil calls "one of those blinding flashes of insight that occur all too seldom in the history of science," Newton realized that the same force that made the apple fall also kept the moon in its orbit around the earth. From this famous incident Trefil tracks the development of the deceptively simple idea of the principle of universality, the subject of this fascinating book, which is that the laws of nature that are true on earth are true everywhere in the universe and always have been. Through the breakthroughs made by Halley, Herschel, Lockyer, Lord Kelvin, Eddington, Einstein, Hubble and lot of other scientists, human understanding has been pushed "to the edges of the observable universe and back to the very beginnings of the cosmos," a process Trefil makes as exciting as a good thriller.
Beethoven Essays, by Maynard Solomon (Harvard, $14.95). These urbane, intelligent essays seek to understand the composer and his work. Links are forged between the psychological dramas of Beethoven's life and the stylistic unfoldings of the music, and the man is firmly placed within the cultural context of his time: "Beethoven's music sought to disrupt. This new quality was first understood, or at least articulated, by Hoffmann in his 1810 review of the Fifth Symphony . . . 'Beethoven's music opens the floodgates of fear, of terror, of horror, of pain, and arouses that yearning for the infinite which is the essence of Romanticism.' "
Socialism: Past and Future, by Michael Harrington, introduction by Irving Howe (Plume, $9.95). This final work by the American radical social thinker, the author of The Other America, was begun the very day he was told he had inoperable cancer. He had three objects in mind: to examine socialist theory and practice in the past, defining its triumphs and failures; to differentiate between democratic socialism and what he called the "pseudosocialism" of Eastern Europe; and to chart a course for socialism as "the hope for human freedom and justice" in the 21st century. Harrington died in summer 1989, just before the collapse of the discredited Marxist regimes in Eastern Europe.
Granta 33: Summer 1990 ($8.95). Novelist William McPherson (a former editor of The Washington Post Book World) went to Europe last year, intending to visit Berlin and then Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia. When a friend suggested he visit Romania for a few days. McPherson did, but stayed for six months. The new issue of Granta contains his report, "In Romania," on the events that culminated in the bloody violence against opponents of the government by police and miners in June. This issue also contains "Time's Arrow," an excerpt from a work in progress by Martin Amis, and a short story, "Gift for a Sweetheart," by Isabel Allende.