Gift ideas -- choicest new books for the holidays; For browsers in zoology; The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of Animal Life. New York: Clarkson N. Potter Inc. 606 pp. $45.

This lavishly illustrated work is a collection of snippets that attempts to convey the wonder, beauty, complexity, and range of the animal kingdom.

In this it partly succeeds. Both the evolutionary lines and the spectrum of species - from worms to benthic fishes - are represented. But, as in an impressionist landscape, the shape and texture of the forest is there, while many of the individual trees and much underbrush is not. This is neither a handbook for wildlife identification nor a tutorial on the animal kingdom.

However, it is a book to browse through for enlightenment and enjoyment, and a reference for highly condensed, general information on the major animal groups. Excellent color photos show many interesting animal features to supplement the brief items. A careful index helps you find your way around. A fine gift for someone who would cherish a useful reference of this sort.

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