It appears on no best-seller lists and its size, 868 pages; its title, "The United States in the 1980s," and its publisher, the Hoover Institution, all but assure that it never will.

But because Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev claims he has read the 5-year-old anthology of policy analyses, the book has become newly controversial.

Gorbachev, who will meet with President Reagan in the superpower summit this week, says he read the book with keen interest.

And he has repeatedly referred to it as a fundamental source of his views on the Reagan administration.

"Your Hoover Institution says our society is falling apart," Gorbachev told House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) during his visit to Moscow in April. "Let me tell you," Gorbachev continued, "you're the one with the deficit, not us."

At his Nov. 5 meeting with Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Gorbachev pointedly declared that he had observed that the book's prescriptions had become policy, which he considered to be proof of right-wing domination of the U.S. government.

According to State Department sources familiar with the conversation, Gorbachev seemed to regard the anthology by the conservative think-tank as the product of an American equivalent of the Soviet Politburo, a document with the force of an official directive. What appears to give his suspicion a special significance is that Shultz served as a member of the advisory committee overseeing the book project.

"It was my idea," said Martin Anderson, a Hoover Institution senior fellow, who was chief of the White House Office of Domestic Policy Development during the first Reagan term.

In Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign, Anderson served as one of his top policy advisers. When Reagan lost, Anderson retreated to the Hoover Institution, which has long had a close relationship with Reagan.

The president is an honorary fellow there.

As Reagan geared up in the late 1970s for another presidential run, Anderson decided to put together a collection of articles on domestic and foreign subjects by leading conservative experts.

But Anderson did not stay to complete the task because he was tapped once again by Reagan to direct his campaign policy shop. Anderson turned over the editing to his Hoover colleagues.

The book was published during the 1980 campaign. "Reagan was aware of the project," Anderson said.

"He was given a copy of the book. I don't know if he read it." The book was also distributed by the Hoover Institution to every member of Congress.

The picture of the Soviet Union presented in the book is not flattering.

"Subterfuge, dissembling and outright dishonesty," wrote Richard F. Staar in his essay in the book, are characteristics "deeply embedded in the psychological makeup of Soviet leaders." Trade with Russia, he contended, was "counterproductive."

And, on arms control, he argued, "No SALT III may be preferable to having one that again shackles the United States and accepts U.S.S.R. obligations on faith alone."

Staar, who was chief U.S. negotiator at the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks in Vienna until forced to resign, forecast a Soviet future in which new leaders would face a declining economy, agricultural crises and internal ethnic divisions.

In the book's article, "Arms Control and National Defense," Fred C. Ikle said that the United States had lost nuclear superiority to the Soviet Union and called for vastly increased military expenditures. "I don't think we had a chapter anticipating the Strategic Defense Initiative sufficiently," Ikle, present undersecretary of defense for policy, now says.

"I think the book has had quite an impact," Anderson said. He views the volume as a benchmark in the rising influence of the conservative movement.

"It's an old cliche," he said, "but there's enormous power in ideas. In 1980 you saw the political ratification of the intellectual battles fought over 15 or 20 years. The ideas in the book reflect that movement. The reason why Gorbachev might think it was a blueprint is that many of the ideas were adopted . . . . Gorbachev realizes the power of ideas."