ASKING FOR TROUBLE: Autobiography of a Banned Journalist, by Donald Woods. Woods, during his editorship of South Africa's Daily Dispatch, became the white gadfly of his country, a battler against apartheid nearly as well known as his black friend Steve Biko. Written in exile in England, his autobiography recounts a remarkable life - chess champion, concert pianist, daring social critic -- with passion, and concludes that a black war of liberation is inevitable in South Africa. (Book World, August 23)

ETHNIC AMERICA: A History, by Thomas Sowell. Over the years the U.S. government has identified various Amricans as disadvantaged -- blacks, Hispanics, Asians are recent recipients of this attention. In this study Sowell, a black economist, examines the relationships among ethnicity, discrimination and achievement to test whether in fact such groups are held back by a WASP majority. His conclusion, bound to be controversial, is that all new citizens, regardless of race or origin, tend to undergo the same rites of assimilation, but that the commitment to the ideals of education and upward mobility varies according to past cultural conditioning. (Book World, August 16)

ANNE THACKERAY RITCHIE: A Biography, by Winifred Gerin. As a novelist she is quite forgotten, but as a human being she is unforgettable, at least to anyone who reads this splendid, warm biography. The daughter of the author of Vanity Fair, Anne Thackeray cared for her father when her mother went mad, followed in his writing career, married a man of 23 when she was 39 ( the marriage was long and happy), and was generally the most beloved literary lady of her time, combining in Henry James' phrase "the minimum of good sense with the maximum of good feeling." (Book World, August 16)

ON HEROES AND TOMBS, by Ernesto Sabato. This novel, acclaimed a masterpiece in Argentina, was first published nearly 20 years ago in Spanish. Combining a complex love story, a mysterious "Report on the Blind" military defense and horrors, it bears comparison to such phantasmagoric masterworks as Three Trapped Tigers, The Obscene Bird of Night, and, of course, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Sabato's novel again shows that South American fiction is the most vital, experimental and interesting in the world today. (Book World, August 16)