* LIFE ON EARTH, by David Attenborough. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 319 pp. $ 22.50. A companion volume to the BBC TV series (aired on PBS), in which Attenborough marshals, through beautiful photographs and a rich, adroit text, what is known about the development and wondrous variety of Earth's animal life and humanity's place in the vast drama.
* CRISIS: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency, by Hamilton Jordan. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 431 pp. $16.95. Describing the harrowing year of the Iran hostage crisis, Jordan's crisp narrative provides a personal perspective that is both credible and compassionate. He describes his unusual four-month role in attempting to open lines of communication between Washington and Tehran, which ended with an ill-fated military rescue mission instead of diplomacy.
* THE DESTINED HOUR, by Barry Rosen, Barbara Rosen, and George Feifer. New York: Doubleday & Co. 328 pp. $17.95. Former Iranian hostage Barry Rosen and his wife, Barbara, recall the 444-day ordeal but more important the qualities that helped them survive it. Barry makes his love for the Iranian people clear and understandable, and he reveals the pride, spirit, and community sense that pulled the hostages through. We come away thinking: So this is what we humans are capable of!
* LECTURES ON RUSSIAN LITERATURE, by Vladimir Nabokov. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 324 pp. $19.95. Drawn from novelist-critic-professor Nabakov's notes for classroom lectures, this collection shows the late expatriate writer on his native literary and linguistic turf. The book is an Olympian, sardonic, peremptory, persnickety delight, in which Chekhov, Gogol, and Tolstoy get generous praise and Gorky and Dostoyevsky get short shrift.
* THE MONEY LENDERS: Bankers and a World in Turmoil, by Anthony Sampson. New York: The Viking Press. 336 pp. $16.95. Sampson delivers something on the grand scale of the biblical overtones of his title, to bring to life the arcane world of the US bankers who lent enormous sums to Zaire, Romania, Poland, Mexico, and other (sometimes shaky) clients, and in the process welded an important but little-known alliance between America and the third world.
* THE PUZZLE PALACE: A Report on America's Most Secret Agency, by James Bamford. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 463 pp. $16.95. Focusing on the National Security Agency, America's supersecret snooping organization, Bamford tells a good deal about the gathering of miles of intercept tapes from communications all over the world but perhaps not enough about how it is analyzed. He has done an extraordinary job of extracting unpublished information from government archives and interviews with previously off-limits people; he even managed to tour the NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, Md.
* TEACHING A STONE TO TALK, by Annie Dillard. New York: Harper & Row. 177 pp. $12.95. A collection of short pieces that originally appeared in magazines, in which the author meditates on the wisdom and beauty of the natural world, and on childhood and growing up, as she continues her search in the mountains and along the seacoasts for what she calls ''the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility (The Absolute).'' In this search she finds language inadequate to express what she observes and feels.
* MARVA COLLINS'S WAY, by Marva Collins and Civia Tamarkin. Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher. 228 pp. $12.95. A look at the innovative methods of this dynamic Chicago teacher, who established a school in a blighted, inner-city neighborhood. By lavish use of praise to build self-confidence and plain hard work, Mrs. Collins has had enormous success with children previously labeled unteachable.
* AMERICAN JOURNEY: Traveling with Tocqueville in Search of America, by Richard Reeves. New York: Simon & Schuster. 399 pp. $15.95. Political reporter Reeves followed the 1831 route of Alexis de Tocqueville, seeking out people of similar station to those the Frenchman interviewed for his study ''Democracy in America.'' Reeves's 100 subjects included Richard Nixon, Derek Bok, Hugh Carey, Potter Stewart, and Betty Friedan, and his conclusions about American democracy today are bright and hopeful.
* PASSIVE SOLAR HOMES: 91 Award-Winning, Energy-Conserving, Single-Family Homes with Specific Suggestions for Design and Construction, by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Energy. New York: Facts on File. 284 pp. $19.95 (hard cover); Everest House. $12.95 (paperback). Illustrates with clear, simple line drawings and schematics the basics of houses that soak up sunlight - what they can look like and how they work.
* THE BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS, by Paul Fussell. New York: Oxford University Press. 284 pp. $15.95. This collection of essays ranges far - from an examination of the latest Boy Scout Handbook to a discussion of whether Graham Greene can indeed write, to book reviews and notes on travel, commentary, and observations on Americana and on World War II. All of which continue to prove that Fussell is a distinguished critic and writer.
* THE DEAN'S DECEMBER, by Saul Bellow. New York: Harper & Row. 379 pp. $13.95 . The hero of this novel is an educator - a man of culture and goodwill who gets swept up in violence, intrigue, injustice, and power games as he journeys with his wife behind the Iron Curtain to visit her stricken mother and then, back in Chicago, helps a pretty bride bring justice to her student-husband's murderers. Nobel laureate Bellow takes us on a grand tour of 20th-century Realpolitik. Yet, above its furor, he sings a paean to human goodness.
* SPACE, by James A. Michener. New York: Random House. 640 pp. $17.95. Atypical Michener, in that the narrative is somewhat overloaded with information and the focus is exclusively on contemporary characters rather than on the molding influence of history. Yet this is a prodigious and readable account of the types involved in the space program since World War II, of their lives and concerns, and of the nuts-and-bolts issues associated with their work.
* A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, by William Wharton. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 242 pp. $ 12.95. An unusual novel set in Germany in 1944, in which a squad of wholesome teen-age GIs, emotionally drained by a disastrous assignment, takes over an abandoned chateau, detached from all sense of time. Their reconnaissance turns up German troops nearby who are mysteriously reluctant to attack, yet the real focus is on the emotional games the Americans play to survive an experience that seems entirely at odds with their being.
* SECOND HEAVEN, by Judith Guest. New York: The Viking Press. 320 pp. $14.95 . A successful novel about ordinary people who aspire to live on that high middle ground where good and evil struggle and happiness is not expected to come easily. The three main characters are two adults, a woman and a man, both recently divorced, and a teen-age boy, almost irreparably harmed by the savagery of a fanatical father. Their paths cross in an interesting way that reveals the humanity and good sense of the author's vision.
* GOD'S GRACE, by Bernard Malamud. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 223 pp. $13.50. A novel concerning an end and a beginning, a story of the last man on earth, who was submerged in a diving bell when a thermonuclear explosion devastated the surface. He emerges to begin life anew, talking with God, and living among late-blooming, talking chimpanzees, whom he hopes to educate to avoid another holocaust.
* DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT, by Anne Tyler. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 303 pp. $13.50. Despite its pervading gloom, this novel is a joy to read in much the way any beautifully written tragedy is - not just for entertainment but enlightenment, too. Tyler tells the story of the life of Pearl Tull and her children, as they come home to visit her for the last time; all their lives have been colored by a single shared event - the husband's desertion, which none of them can forgive.
* AH, BUT YOUR LAND IS BEAUTIFUL, by Alan Paton. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 192 pp. $12.95. South African novelist Paton knows full well the ironies of his title - from the tourist's polite evasion of his country's chill racial injustice, to the land expropriated from black people, to the shattered dreams of the Afrikaner official he portrays as trapped under one of his own government's Draconian laws. Yet in this story of life in the 1950s Paton goes beyond the irony to evoke the redeeming individual possibilities that any country must value.
* THE MOSQUITO COAST, by Paul Theroux. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 416 pp. $13.95. To escape from all the revulsions around him, Father - at first an engaging and gentle lunatic - moves his family from a Massachusetts farm to the deep interiors of Honduras, where he becomes relentless in his determination to take everyone down with him, until at last he is forced to embrace the vultures that have circled him throughout his obsessive venture. Taut with suspense, and invoking themes reminiscent of ''Heart of Darkness'' and ''Moby-Dick,'' Theroux's novel leaves the reader to arrange the pieces of this moral jigsaw into a coherent message.
* THE END OF MY CAREER, by Miles Franklin. New York: St. Martin's Press. 234 pp. $10.95. The Australian-born writer's semi-autobiographical (and less-well-crafted) sequel to ''My Brilliant Career'' picks up the spunky heroine just after she defies convention by choosing a literary career over marriage. And, though her book succeeds, she discovers ''success'' isn't all it's cracked up to be.
* THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER, selected and with an introduction by Mr. Singer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 588 pp. $20. From the 1979 Nobel laureate, 47 tales evoking the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry, which for their narrative drive, color, variety, and sheer suggestive power are as superior to most contemporary fiction as they are distant from it.
* COLLECTED STORIES OF V.S. PRITCHETT. New York: Random House. 521 pp. $20. Pritchett's eye for contradictions of character and the humor inherent in a situation, and his ability to write clear, precise, yet vivid prose, make this collection a formidable answer to those who dismiss the short story as inferior to the novel.
* SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS IN QUARTO, edited and with introduction and notes by J. B. Allen and Kenneth Muir. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. 906 pp. $95. In the past, Shakespeare scholars have had to travel to specialized libraries to look at the earliest printed versions of the Bard's plays - the quartos. Now modern photographic processes have made possible the sharp reproductions of original pages in this facsimile edition, taken primarily from the Henry E. Huntington Library, and making these rare editions more generally available.
* THE FATE OF THE EARTH, by Jonathan Schell. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 244 pp. $11.95 (hard cover); Avon Books. 244 pp. $2.50 (paperback). No other book on the threat of nuclear arms speaks as clearly or sensitively to the layman, or encompasses the cultural, moral, and spiritual as well as technological and political considerations that Schell's does. Must reading for those who want to understand the issues and implications.
* THE POLISH AUGUST, by Neal Ascherson. New York: The Viking Press. 320 pp. $ 14.95. The British journalist examines, in the light of history, the three principal forces in the Polish drama since 1980 - the government, the Roman Catholic Church, and the free trade union Solidarity - to produce a helpful book for anyone wanting to understand Poland's brave, exhilarating, and tragic struggle for greater freedom.
* FROM THE CENTER OF THE EARTH: The Search for the Truth About China, by Richard Bernstein. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 260 pp. $15.95. Time magazine correspondent Bernstein offers an uncharacteristically dark yet candid view of modern China and its shortcomings, from the lasting damage done by the Cultural Revolution to the dramatic decline in the standard of life in Peking. Altogether a sharp and penetrating assessment that will alter American perceptions of the world's most populous nation.
* CHINA: Alive in the Bitter Sea, by Fox Butterfield. New York: Times Books. 468 pp. $19.95. Avoiding ponderous descriptions of bureaucracy, New York Times correspondent Butterfield focuses on the system's impact on the average citizen, producing vivid portraits of people, places, and moods, and of the deterioration in Chinese cultural life during the last years of Mao's rule and under his successors.
* NUCLEAR POWER: BOTH SIDES, edited by Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 279 pp. $14.95. A collection of 21 essays covering the basic issues on both sides of the debate over the public hazard of nuclear power generation. The contributors are prominent experts who present the facts fairly, whose opinions are recognizable as such, and whose views are presented without self-serving exaggeration. A supremely useful book.
* AMERICA IN SEARCH OF ITSELF: The Making of the President 1956-1980, by Theodore H. White. New York: Harper & Row. 465 pp. $15.95. The dean of American election-watchers is more cynical and pessimistic in this retrospective than in any of his earlier books, largely because of the influence of the new media ''manipulators,'' who do a disservice to the political process, White feels.
* KENNEDY, KHRUSHCHEV, AND THE TEST BAN, by Glenn T. Seaborg, with Benjamin S. Loeb. Berkeley, Calif.: The University of California Press. 320 pp. $16.95. An important book by the former head of the Atomic Energy Commission, which reminds us that an effective nuclear arms control agreement - the Limited Test Ban Treaty - was successfully concluded between the US and the USSR and has been maintained for nearly 20 years. A highly personal account of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering on the American side.
* THE NUCLEAR DELUSION: Soviet-American Relations in the Atomic Age, by George F. Kennan. New York: Pantheon Books. 208 pp. $13.95. This important collection of writings by diplomat-historian Kennan reverses jingoistic American stereotypes about Soviet militancy; shows reasons for hope that Moscow would be willing to go far in negotiating a realistic, mutual limit in nuclear arms; points out the fallacy in America's willingness to resort to a first use of nuclear weapons under certain circumstances; and summons at times the moral indignation that, in the end, is the only human force strong enough to save us from our follies.
* THE UNITED STATES IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Interests and Obstacles, by Seth P. Tillman. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. 333 pp. $22.50. A dispassionate, well-documented history and analysis of American policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, which includes recommendations for the future.
* GLOBAL INSECURITY: A Strategy for Energy and Economic Renewal, by Daniel Yergin and Martin Hillenbrand. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 427 pp. $15.95. A book with two-pronged advice for future planning by Western industrial democracies: coordinate national policies with international need to avoid serious economic, political, and social consequences; and rapidly develop means ''for uncoupling economic growth from energy consumption.''
* AMERICA'S OLD AGE CRISIS: Public Policy and the Two Worlds of Aging, by Stephen Crystal. New York: Basic Books. 300 pp. $16.50. Crystal argues that the present US programs for the elderly constitute a type of lottery in which the not-so-needy aged are the big beneficiaries and the badly in need are lost in the shuffle. Solutions are suggested for some problems - but Crystal can't see any way around the biggest obstacle to an effective program: high cost.
* THE EVOLUTION OF NUCLEAR STRATEGY, by Lawrence Freedman. New York: St. Martin's Press. 473 pp. $35 in hard cover, $10.95 in paperback. The definitive study, which cuts through jargon, demonstrates our vast ignorance of what a nuclear war would be like, reveals the cyclical nature of pro- and anti-nuclear debates, examines the ideas of such analysts as Albert Wohlstetter, Robert McNamara, and Henry Kissinger, and shows the folly of deterrence as a permanent solution.
* STANDING FAST: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, with Tom Matthews. New York: The Viking Press. 361 pp. $16.95. The story of a movement as much as of a man. The late NAACP chief chronicles the slow, unfinished process of America's emergence from racism - with heart-soaring moments of courage and triumph as well as the nightmarish horrors of bigotry and small-heartedness.
* LET THE TRUMPET SOUND: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Stephen B. Oates. New York: Harper & Row. 560 pp. $19.95. Because of King there are fewer obstacles today between black Americans and the voting booth. This masterly, sympathetic, yet clearsighted biography recalls for a new generation just how often King had to sound the trumpet in the '50s and '60s before the federal government would take a firm stand for civil rights; confirms King's legacy; and reminds us that his dream was for the rights of us all.
* 'SUBTLE IS THE LORD': The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, by Abraham Pais. New York: Oxford University Press. 552 pp. $25. A valuable and unique view, which deals simultaneously with Einstein as scientist and human being. It will interest lay readers as well as the scientifically literate.
* REAGAN, by Lou Cannon. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 464 pp. $18.95. The best political biography of Reagan yet written shows the President as molded by both his humble depression-colored Midwestern background, which prompts compassion for the truly needy, and by the make-believe Hollywood world, which bestows goodness on demand and solves problems by waving a magic wand.
* HANNAH ARENDT: For the Love of the World, by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. New Haven: Yale University Press. 563 pp. $25. Arendt, an intellectual who grew up in Germany and then fled the Nazis, became one of the most prominent and controversial political philosophers of this century, best known, perhaps, for her ideas on totalitarianism and the nature of ''radical evil.'' With a wealth of quotation, description, and explanation, Professor Young-Bruehl creates and intimate and powerful picture of her work.
* YEARS OF UPHEAVAL, by Henry Kissinger. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1,283 pp. $24.95. Dealing with 1973-74 - when the Watergate scandal reached its zenith and the Vietnam peace agreement was signed and then began to unravel, when the fourth Arab-Israeli war was followed by Dr. Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy, when OPEC discovered it could call the tune on world oil prices, when the Allende regime was overthrown in Chile, when the US lost its clear nuclear superiority to the Soviet Union, and when SALT negotiations with the Russians stalled - the former secretary of state weaves a literary and historical masterpiece, which is all the more noteworthy for its insights into key figures of the times.
* SCENES OF CHILDHOOD, by Sylvia Townsend Warner. New York: The Viking Press. 177 pp. $10.95. Fresh, delightful, and compelling evidence (gleaned from 40 years of New Yorker magazine articles) that the late English writer, rather than turning reminiscences into sentimental mush, knew how to lead readers to a smile and then leave them to enjoy it.
* LIKE IT WAS: The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge, selected and edited by John Bright-Holmes. New York: William Morrow & Co. 560 pp. $18. Muggeridge - British journalist in Moscow and Calcutta, editor of Punch, humorist and broadcaster - has been regarded as something of an impish prophet since his conspicuous conversion to Christianity. Though the early pages of this diary reveal a lot of egotism and self-pity, the book becomes fascinating as it shows the remarkable transformation after Muggeridge became convinced that ''love governs the universe.'' Not as good as his autobiography but studded with memorable nuggets.
* HUNGER OF MEMORY: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez. Boston: David R. Godine. 195 pp. $13.95. Beautifully written, weighing sorrowful loss against ultimate gain, this is the true story of a Mexican-American's years in a US parochial school, which, while equipping him for success in his new country, also wrenched him out of his native culture and made him a stranger in his own family.
* THE SELECTED LETTERS OF MARK TWAIN, edited and with an introduction and commentary by Charles Neider. New York: Harper & Row. 328 pp. $16.95. This selection from the Albert Bigelow Paine edition (1917) of Twain's correspondence focuses on the comic and humane sides of the beloved author, but the book may be eclipsed for some readers by a new and complete edition of Twain's letters, expected next year from the University of California Press.
* WOMEN'S DIARIES OF THE WESTWARD JOURNEY, by Lillian Schlissel. New York: Schocken Books. 272 pp. $16.95. Using the diaries, reminiscences, and letters of 103 pioneer women (plus 48 photographs), Professor Schlissel vividly re-creates the experiences, feelings, and daily routines of the women who shared in the taming of the American West.
* THE PAST HAS ANOTHER PATTERN: Memoirs, by George W. Ball. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 527 pp. $19.95. The lawyer, economist, diplomat, and investment banker puts world affairs since World War II in unique and useful perspective and makes abundantly clear what constitutes good foreign-policy making. Constantly an opponent of American involvement in Vietnam, Ball here turns his sensible and farsighted gaze to eliminating cold war stereotypes, the problems of the Mideast, the rise of illegal immigration into the US and the implications of the growing Hispanic influence, and the glitter and mystery of technology.
* THE TORCH IN MY EAR, by Elias Canetti. Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 372 pp. $16.50. Vol. 2 of the Nobel laureate's autobiography concentrates primarily on Canetti's education and family life in from 1921 to '31. Its chief strength is in showing how various experiences and acquaintances shaped his career and thought and in demonstrating his superb writing.
* EMINENT VICTORIAN WOMEN, by Elizabeth Longford. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 256 pp. $22.50. This copiously illustrated and highly readable corrective to Lytton Strachey's 1918 indictment of Victoriana focuses on the Brontes, George Eliot, Ellen Terry, Florence Nightingale, and others who defied convention to pursue their callings and, in the process, made such enormous and varied contributions.
* WARRIORS AT SUEZ, by Donald Neff. New York: The Linden Press. 479 pp. $17. 95. The 1956 Suez conflict became the final, convincing, and humilitating proof that Britain and France were finished as imperial powers, and this meticulously researched and finely written book presents that story from a global perspective.
* FDR: A Centenary Remembrance, by Joseph Alsop. New York: The Viking Press. 256 pp. $25. Columnist Alsop, a relative of Mrs. Roosevelt and an observer who personally knew the important people in the life and career of FDR, was uniquely qualified to write the text for this lavishly illustrated and compelling retrospective, which answers nearly all of the lingering questions about the 32 nd president, from his possible foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack to his relationship with Eleanor and the other woman in his life, Lucy Mercer.
* A COAST OF TREES, by A. R. Ammons. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 52 pp. $4. 95 (paperback). Ammons - now producing some of the best poetry written today - talks of hedgerows, grackles, brooks, and snowstorms, but don't be fooled. He's after bigger game in a cosmic nature tour that shows the things of earth ''as insubstantial and permanent as a mirage.''
* SHADOW TRAIN, by John Ashbery. New York: The Viking Press. 50 pp. $8.95. Ashbery's world, like his poems, is absurdist, surreal, endlessly surprising. His subject is the disappearance of subject matter, his favorite device the non sequitur. Often opaque but just as often stimulating.
* THE COLLECTED POEMS OF SYLVIA PLATH. New York: Harper & Row. 288 pp. $15.95 in hard cover, $6.95 in paperback. Plath, who startled readers with her vivid images of a woman's personal experience, is usually remembered for her dark visions and suicide, which elevated her to something approaching literary sainthood. This collection shows us the work behind the myth, finely crafted but unremarkable at first, then growing into a strong original voice marked by ferocious honesty, linguistic inventiveness, and haunting imagery.
* THE COMPLETE POEMS, by Anne Sexton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 622 pp. $20. Before her tragic suicide, Sexton wrote some of the strongest, most intimate feminist poetry ever produced, which outraged as many as it pleased. Several of her early poems are awesome in their depth and vitality, but too many of the later ones are overlong, unfocused, and crammed to the bursting point.
* ODYSSEUS ELYTIS: Selected Poems, selected by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. New York: The Viking Press. 113 pp. $11.95 in hard cover, $5.95 in paperback. A sampling from 11 volumes (1940-1979) of the Greek poet's work, which demonstrates the anticlassicism of his early poems and his focus on the Greek way of life in the latter ones. The lyrics are sparkling, sometimes bitter , often full of wonder and celebration.
* JOEL: Growing Up a Farm Man, by Patricia and Jack Demuth. New York: Dodd, Mead, 144 pp. $12.95. (Ages 11 up.) An absorbing photo essay covering a year in the life of Joel Holland, who lives on an Illinois farm bought by his great-great grandfather. With much hard work, he was buying and feeding his own calves at age 12, and at 13 running his own hog operation grossing over $40,000 a year.
* COMPARISONS. New York: St. Martin's Press. 240 pp. $15 in hard cover, $9.95 in paperback. (Ages 10 up.) A most unusual book, with hundreds of illustrations showing how people, plants, animals, and objects, both natural and man-made, compare in such relative characteristics as size, speed, and weight. Each of 10 chapters is devoted to a measurable attribute.
* ELEPHANT SCHOOL, written and photographed by John Stewart. New York: Pantheon Books. 55 pp. $10.95. (All ages.) A book that captures in picture and text the life of a young mahout - an elephant trainer -and a young elephant at the world's only school for pachyderms, in northern Thailand, where the animals are trained for work in the government-owned teak forests.
* RAIJPUR: Last of the Bengal Tigers, by Robert M. McClung, illustrated by Irene Brady. New York: William Morrow & Co. 95 pp. $7.50. (Ages 8-12.) A fictionalized story of a tiger's life from birth to maturity, with current conservation information expertly woven in. Warmly illustrated with sepia and orange-tone drawings of tigers and other jungle animals.
* THE FAMOUS STANLEY KIDNAPPING CASE, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. New York: Atheneum. 212 pp. $2.95 paperback. (Ages 10 and up.) During a sabbatical year, an American professor, his artistic wife, and their five children are living in an Italian villa, when suddenly the children are kidnapped. Although there's not too much mystery, the book provides some scary entertainment and a good look at Italy as well.
* BIRDS, BEASTS AND THE THIRD THING: Poems by D. H. Lawrence, selected and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. New York: The Viking Press. 40 pp. $ 12.95. (All ages.) The Provensens, Caldecott Award winners, have selected poems that show Lawrence's love of nature, as he writes about hummingbirds, the beauty of sunsets, how a bird makes its living, the mysteries of water, and rainbows.
* THE GIRL ON THE OUTSIDE, by MIldred Pitts Walter. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. 149 pp. $9.50. (Ages 11-16.) A teen novel based largely on the true story of a 1957 desegregation case in Little Rock, Ark., and showing how far we've come since then. Using ''Mossville'' as her setting, Ms. Walter traces two communities waiting for a judge's decision on whether the court will allow black teen-agers to attend the city's exclusively white school.
* THIS STRANGE NEW FEELING, by Julius Lester. New York: The Dial Press. 149 pp. $10.95. (Age 12 and up.) Newbery Honor winner Lester has produced a meticulously researched account of life in America under slavery, in a collection of believable, real-life stories, with the kind of heroics and understated humor that older readers appreciate most.
* RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8, by Beverly Cleary. New York: Morrow Junior Books. 190 pp. $7.95. (Ages 7-10.) Irrepressible Ramona is back, this time in third grade learning lots of ''dos'' and ''don'ts.'' An added plus is the quiet emphasis Cleary puts on reading. Ramona learns to find short words in long ones, and her favorite time in the school day is right after lunch when the class has ''Sustained Silent Reading.''
* THE SWINEHERD, by Hans Christian Andersen. Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. New York: William Morrow & Co. 12 pp. $9.50. (Ages 8-10.) Engaging watercolor and ink illustrations by Austrian artist Zwerger help capture the lyrical, Old World flavor of this satirical fairy tale about a spoiled princess who shuns the attentions of an honest prince and sacrifices her dignity for amusing trifles.
* TOOL BOOK, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons. New York: Holiday House. Pages unnumbered. $10.95. (Ages 3-6.) This bright, pleasing book catalogs in words and pictures the most familiar tools. Principles of motion and rest that explain how tools work are suggested by arrows indicating the direction of use. One flaw: The two sizes of type used to designate the category of tools and each individual name make for some confusion.
* PLANET OF THE WARLORD, by Douglas Hill. New York: Atheneum. 128 pp. $8.95. (Ages 11 and up.) This book, the fourth in a series about Keill Randor, is a science fiction adventure story that will attract readers. It has good characterization, brevity, and a fast pace, and it works on two levels - as a rousing space opera and as a morality tale of the conflict of good and evil.