CONVENTION, by Richard Reeves (Harcourt Brace, $10). This is a highly accessible on-the-spot story of the Carter victory last fall. The nuts and bolts of winning are interspersed with portraits of the schemers, cynics, hangers-on and go-fers who were a part of the process, as well as the often seamy ambience of the convention surroundings. Also noteworthy is HOW JIMMY WON, by Kandy Stroud (Morrow, $10.95), a more laborious but still interesting, serious and honest accounting, at its best in the portrayed of the personal side of the Georgian and the men and women around him.

MARATHON: The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1972-1976, by Jules Witcover (Viking, $14.95). This sweeping volume by aveteran reporter sets out to demonstrate how the primary election system has become "a marathon obstacle course that consumes time, money, and humans like some insatiable furnace." In an exhaustive treatment of more than 600 pages, Witcover examines the motives and machinery of our national contests and concludes that the system constitutes "masochism on a national scale."

AMERICAN JOURNAL: The events of 1976, by Elizabeth Drew (Random House, $12.95). Elizabeth Drew kept her first public journals in the pages of The New Yorker in 1974 and turned them into Washington Journal, a revealing narrative account of the overthrow of Richard Nixon. She has done the same in American Journal for the events of the bicentennial year. Although some of these pieces originally appeared the magazine, many are printed in the book for the first time; and the result is personal yet comprehensive look at the historic year and its historic election, as filtered through the mind of a Washington journalist. The changing moods of the nation during those 12 months are tellingly and confidently rendered.

NOT ABOVE THE LAW: The Battles of Watergate Prosecutors Cox and Jaworski, by James Doyle (Marrow, $10.95). Doyle was the chief press officer for the Watergate prosecutors, and his inside story of their job is lively and revealing, if somewhat uncritical of the Special Prosecution Force itself. Combining a step-by-step account of how a president was toppled with personal anecdotes from the legal team, Doyle's book provides a good view of the aspects of the Watergate case that you couldn't see on television.

CONGRESS AGAINST ITSELF, by Roger H. Davidson and Walter J. Oleszek (Indiana University, $15). The authors are political scientists who served on the professional staff of the House Select Committee on Committees - which tried without success to reform the structure of the House. That effort provoked a major battle, and one which the committee was destined to lose because of entrenched privilege and jurisdictional battles among chairman and various powerful lobbyists. The authors show what happened, and long the way reveal the many procedural hurdles and structural barriers in the design of the House.

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: The Ford Years, by John Osborne (New Republic Books, $11.95). OSborne is unarguable an experienced president-watcher, as his previous six volumes on the "Nixon Watch" will testify. Here he combines his lucid and humane columns written for The New Republic with new material gathered from interviews with Ford himself and members of his administration during the last few weeks that they were in power. In general, this is a good retrospective on the brief but significant Ford years.

PUBLIC TRUST, PRIVATE LUST: Sex, Power and Corruption of Capitol Hill, by Marrion Clark and Rudy Maxa (Morrow, $8.95). Washington Post reporters Clark and Maxa were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the Wayne Hays-Elizabeth Ray story, and their books recounts the step-by-step background of how they did it as the facts unfolded. In addition to the portraits of Ray ("She had face that looked like trouble") and others, the book rangers out to investigate the more widespread implications of sex and power in Washington.