This massive volume (though less massive than The People's Almanac, from which it is a sort of spinoff) may replace The Guiness Book of World Records as the most useless reference work in print - useless, that is, unless you want to do some random browsing and pick up some serendipitous information. For example:

1. Ten of the worst generals in history (General Motors is not mentioned)

2. The weight (in ounces) of 18 famous brains (Byron is tied fo.r first place with . . . Oliver Cromwell).

3. A dozen famous trials for crimes other than murder (no mention of Patty Hearst, The Pentagon Papers, the obscenity trail against Ulysses , or any of the Watergate trials).

4. Profiles fo the moters of ten infamous persons (Nero, Benedict Arnold, Hitler and others).

5. The names of ten woman (among them, Caroline Kennedy, Jules Nixon Eisenhower, Mary Tyler Moore and Gloria Steinem) who have not accepted Larry Flynt's offer of $1 million to pose nude for Hustler magazine.

And others too numerous to list.

The editors also include occasional editorial comments, opining for example that Richard Nixon's selections for his all-star baseball teams "were even-handed and judicious compared to the lapses he suffered in picking his White House staff and re-election committee." (Morrow, $10.95)

Joseph McLellan