CULTURAL ATLAS OF AFRICA, edited by Jocelyn Murray (Facts on File, $29.95). In its three sections--The Physical Background, The Cultural Background, and The Nations of Africa--this atlas delves into the fascinating diversity of the world's second largest continent. The Cultural Background includes traditional entries on "African Arts," "Religions," and "Europe in Africa," enlivened by special features on "Nigerian Bronzes," "The Ethiopian Church" and "The Source of the Nile Debate." Other more unusual entries treat "Vernacular Architecture," and, in an excellent discussion, "The African Diaspora." The Nations of Africa are thoroughly described in political, cultural, historical and economic terms. Maps accompany the country descriptions and all information is current through 1980. Both author and publisher are to be commended: The Cultural Atlas of Africa is first rate and up to date!

AFRICA: A CONTINENT REVEALED, by R,en,e Gordon (St. Martin's, $40). R,en,e Gordon has compiled a beautiful yet disturbing vision of contemporary Africa. In it she seeks to explain the contemporary cultural, political and social problems facing Africans. Dividing the continent into quadrants, Gordon discusses the ecology, geography, cultures and societies in each region; her text accompanies the brilliant work of 42 photographers whose landscapes and portraits capture the grandeur of the harsh African environment and the power and dignity of the African people. However, Gordon's brand of environmental determinism causes her to miss many pressing African realities; she avoids grappling with the impact of the division of the continent into nation-states, does little to analyze the subordination of African economies to those of Europe and the United States, and in some instances offers little information about current political developments.