After the run of economic doomsday books of the last two or three years, it's a relief to see some ''good news'' books for a change. Certainly, it is more cheering to read the writings of optimists than pessimists. But more importantly, the optimists are more likely right at the moment.
The prophets of gloom and doom last year were predicting currency collapse, hyperinflation, and great depression. What we are actually experiencing is a strong United States dollar, rapidly declining inflation, and a moderate recession that most economists expect to end this spring or summer.
Unfortunately, both of these books attempt to use in some degree the same publishing format and formula (though reversed in theme) that helped put Douglas R. Casey's ''Crisis Investing: Opportunities and Profits in the Coming Great Depression'' (Stratford Press, distributed by Harper & Row) and Jerome F. Smith's ''The Coming Currency Collapse, and What You Can Do About It'' (Books in Focus) into the top 10 best-seller lists early last year. It reminds one of sequels to a popular movie; from the standpoint of quality, most of them are flops.
In this case, the Williams book is poorly executed and over-priced. The Kandel volume is well-written, sensible in content, and so probably useful to those who want to invest in the stock market. But this ''boom'' book has the strengths and weaknesses of financial journalism; it is not a comprehensive manual for investors.
Larry R. Williams is an investment-letter writer -- and apparently a successful investor; he wrote an earlier book called ''How I Made a Million Dollars Trading Commodities.'' This latest book, though, is sloppy. It includes several factual or printing mistakes that should have been caught by editors. It is poorly organized. The last chapters have the feel of someone trying to pad out the writing to meet a specified length. And, like some of the authors of the doomsday books, Mr. Williams unabashedly recommends his own investment letter and his previous book.
Of course, the book could perhaps more fairly be judged purely on the soundness of its advice, rather than the quality of the writing. Williams assumes that the Federal Reserve System will restrain the growth of money -- and he is probably right. Thus, as he suggests, it is unlikely that gold and diamonds and other collectibles will soar in price, as they did in the 1970s. He predicts the price of gold will actually tumble -- but who knows? He also forecasts a return to a gold-backed dollar, which seems most certainly wrong.
He includes a chapter entitled ''Commodities: The Fastest Game in Town and the Best Investment for the '80s.'' Though he does give the usual warnings about the risks of commodity investments, this whole field is definitely dangerous for anyone who can't afford to lose the money he might invest. Most investors in commodity futures do lose money, particularly the amateurs. Williams claims to have a technique that enables the amateur to follow the investing pattern of the professional experts, who are more likely to make money. I'm skeptical. I'd like to see an academic test his method for reliability.
Williams also recommends investment in the stock market, because he expects higher prices by 1983, as do many other analysts nowadays. He devotes a chapter to real estate investment, but there are much better books on this. And he tosses off a grab-bag chapter on other possible investments ranging from high-technology and medical stocks to Spiralina algae, a high-protein material that might be used for survival rations in a catastrophe. Obviously, in 181 pages Williams is bound to have some good advice; but there is an edge of flamboyance and recklessness that could make this a dangerous book for the novice investor.
By contrast, Mr. Kandel's book is full of the common-sense advice and investment nuggets he has picked up from 25 years as a leading financial journalist. With short chapters, numerous charts and tables, and clear writing, his book can be read quickly and easily.
It also includes advice from some 23 leading financial advisers, some more enlightening than others. In one section some of the professionals have the courage to spell out their specific stock recommendations for 1982 and beyond.
Kandel has included some of the highlights from the Stock Trader's Almanac (Hirsch Organization Inc.) about trading patterns, such as typical movements in the prices of stock over a day, a week, or a month.
And then there's the fun stuff. For instance, the Super Bowl victory of the San Francisco Giants last month should mean a rise in stocks this year - at least, according to the Super Bowl Market Predictor developed by Robert H. Stovall, chairman of the investment policy committee at Dean Witter Reynolds. He found that when a team from the old National Football Conference won, the Standard & Poor's 500 index went up that year.
One excellent piece of advice from Mr. Kandel: ''Some people are convinced that following a specific stock market system will lead them to riches. As for me, I've never found a system that satisfied me. I'm particularly skeptical of the get-rich-quick schemes that spring up with heavy promotion every so often. I don't know of any such method that actually works. And if one did exist, I don't know of anyone who would stop raking in his winnings long enough to bother putting it between hard covers or in an envelope or, worse yet, in a high-pressure telephone call.''
These two books haven't been out long enough to determine whether optimism sells as well as pessimism. But only Kandel's book deserves to make the best-seller lists.