Nonfiction

Some Horses, by Thomas McGuane (Lyons, $22.95). As the author of several acclaimed novels (including The Bushwhacked Piano and Nothing But Blue Skies) that often take place on vast plains beneath big skies, Thomas McGuane is an old hand at writing about men and horses. In Some Horses, a collection of essays, he plumbs the complex relationship between horses and humans while sharing the details of their interaction. Here he writes about cutting horses, learning to rope them and the wonder of discovering a foal just freed from its mother's womb. As McGuane's regular readers know, he is as adept at describing small moments as he is at portraying the main events. In "A Foal," a brief passage about his Montana ranch provides a telling window to the surrounding world: "A small river whispers around the edge of the yard and down behind the barn, a sparkling freestone river that springs from a mountain range I can see to the south. Its height changes daily according to meltoff and storms in the mountains, events I couldn't detect; but I can see the dark rings around the stones when the river is falling, the shells of transforming stoneflies, the dart of yellow warblers crossing the river to their willow nests."

The Lines Are Drawn: Political Cartoons of the Civil War, edited by Kristen M. Smith (Hill Street, $18.50). Imagine Abraham Lincoln dressed as Mother Hubbard while hunched over tea with his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who is similarly attired. Or picture Honest Abe as a court jester -- or even as the Devil himself. Lincoln provoked the ire of many satirical sketch artists during the great conflict, and many of the results can be found in The Lines Are Drawn. Edited by Kristen M. Smith (herself a cartoonist), this book collects a wide range of cartoons, comics and caricatures related to the Civil War. Smith has included 138 illustrations from such popular publications of the period as Harper's, Vanity Fair, London Punch, Southern Illustrated News and New York Illustrated News. Jefferson Davis and his Confederate cohorts fared as poorly as Lincoln and the Union; Davis is portrayed as a starving pauper and a caged bird, among other things.

I Ain't Got Time To Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic From the Bottom Up, by Jesse Ventura (Villard, $19.95). "If public service is going to work as it should, public servants have to know who the public they're serving really is. To do that they must first have spent time building a life the way we working people have, or our concerns will never be real to them." An excerpt from President Clinton's Between Hope and History? Nah. A passage from Mario Cuomo's Reason To Believe? Nuh-uh. The above quotation belongs to none other than Jesse Ventura, former Navy Seal, former pro wrestler and current occupant of the top seat at the Minnesota statehouse. In I Ain't Got Time to Bleed, Ventura lays out his views on pressing political concerns of the day, including taxes, education, gun control, welfare and other hot-button issues. He also details his storied progression from the Navy's most elite squad to the Minnesota governor's mansion.

Those Damn Yankees: The Secret Life of America's Greatest Franchise, by Dean Chadwin (Verso, $25). "No ballclub," the author writes," has been more loved or more hated than the New York Yankees." And never more so, perhaps, than after the team's stupendous performance in 1998. But Chadwin points out that the Yankees' win-loss record was nothing compared to that of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, who "went unbeaten, suffering only one tie in sixty contests." Nonetheless, the Yankees dominated the majors in 1998, by dint of a process of player acquisition that Chadwin calls "poaching." "Unless the sport's financial structure is altered profoundly," he argues, " the Bronx Bombers wil always be predators, snatching players . . . from teams that could no longer afford their services and outbidding all comers for free agents. . . ."