Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje (Penguin, $6.95). New Orleans cornetist Buddy Bolden was one of the earliest jazz musicians. Though no recordings of his playing exist, Bolden was by all accounts a brilliant and innovative performer who influenced King Oliver, Bunk Johnson and Louis Armstrong. But their success eluded him and Bolden died in a state mental hospital. Coming Through Slaughter is Michael Ondaatje's imagining of Bolden's life and times, a collage that mixes history and actual interviews with fictional events. Penguin has also reissued Ondaatje's Running in the Family, an account of his return to Sri Lanka to learn more about the history of his family. Keep the Change, by Thomas McGuane (Vintage, $9.95). Joe Starling, a failed artist living in Florida as this novel begins, sets out for home in Montana to find out why the checks from his trust fund have stopped arriving. He suspects his aunt and uncle of misappropriating the money but is willing to make some allowance for the hardship of their life. In the course of resolving this dilemma, he renews his contact with the rugged local landscape and its abundant wildlife. The Mary Shelley Reader, edited by Betty T. Bennett and Charles E. Robinson (Oxford, $14.95; cloth, $39.95). For most readers Mary Shelley is the author of one book, albeit a great one, Frankenstein (written before she was 21!). But several recent biographies, as well as a new edition of her letters, have helped renew interest in Shelley's rather sad life and subsequent literary career. Included in this reader are essays, stories and letters, as well as the complete texts of Frankenstein and the romantic novella of guilt and incest, "Mathilda." Anyone eager for more of Shelley should also look for her Collected Tales and Stories, edited by Charles E. Robinson (Johns Hopkins, paperback, $16.95). NONFICTION Big Sugar: Seasons in the Cane Fields of Florida, by Alec Wilkinson (Vintage, $9.95). The sugar you put in your morning coffee or tea most likely comes from cane cut by the 10,000 West Indians brought each year to South Florida. In the fall the cutters leave their families to do backbreaking work that is so dangerous, exhausting and low-paying that no American will do it. Their work is not ended until spring. Though they wear shin guards and other protection, the men routinely cut themselves or spear themselves on cane stalks. Big Sugar is a portrait of the cane cutters' lives, and an examination of the sugar industry and the government policies that bring the cutters to Florida each year. You Call This Living?: A Collection of East European Political Jokes, by C. Banc and Alan Dundes (University of Georgia Press, $9.95). The jokes in this collection are primarily Romanian, though most have counterparts in other East European countries. The title of the book comes from a joke about a man who knocks on a door and asks if a tailor called Rabinowitch lives there. The man who answers the door says no. "Who are you?" the first man asks. "Rabinowitch." "And aren't you a tailor?" "Yes, I am." "Then why did you say you didn't live here?" Because, responds the man, "You call this living?" Warriors: Navaho Code Talkers, photographs by Kenji Kawano; introduction by Benis M. Frank (Northland Publishing Co., P.O. Box N. Flagstaff, Ariz. 86002; $24.95). During the Second World War, an enterprising private citizen named Philip Johnston persuaded the U.S. Marines that to protect radio communication from enemy interception in forward battle zones, the Corps had only to recruit young Navajo Indian men from Arizona and New Mexico. In fact two platoons of "code talkers" were recruited, and they wrote a little-known chapter in the history of the Marines' amphibious campaigns in the Pacific Theater. Here are the moving stories of 75 surviving, much decorated talkers. Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston, by Musa Mayer (Penguin, $11.95). Some painters keep to one style all their careers; others change and develop over time. Philip Guston did neither. For years a prominent abstract expressionist, he suddenly converted to realism in midcareer, much to the consternation of his admirers. But he eventually won back a new set of fans. This memoir by his daughter focuses on Guston's personal life, emphasizing the mixed blessing of being part of an artist's family. War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination, by H. Bruce Franklin (Oxford, $10.95). Franklin, well known as a critic of politics, science fiction and what used to be known as the military-industrial complex, here combines those interests in a chronicle of America's longtime obsession with war technology, both in fiction and history. He touches on early scientific romances, Thomas Edison's inventions, movies like "Dr. Strangelove," and the Reagan Star Wars program, showing how the daydreams of children, writers and politicians can become real-life nightmares.