WALDENBOOKS IS PART of the same company that owns Neiman-Marcus, and its current seasonal promotion is roughly analogous to those annual eyecatchers -- the matched Learjets, etc. -- from the famous Texas-based department store. For a mere $5,326 -- that's list price, plus a paltry $2 shipping charge -- you can order the whole 34-page Christmas catalogue and have it delivered to your doorstep.

That's 38 calendars, 25 cookbooks, 16 appointment diaries, 65 kids' books, as well as coffee-table volumes, reference books, new fiction and nonfiction. Agatha Christie, the Grinch, Elvis, Betty Crocker, Kurt Vonnegut, James Michener, Jane Fonda, Nancy Reagan, John and Yoko, Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell: a varied population. Even 14 "different" blank books. What's more, there's a special bonus for those who empty out their bank accounts to fill their bookshelves: a complete set of the 30-volume Encyclopedia Britannica 3, all 32,000 pages and 23,500 illustrations.

This catalogue has already appeared in its entirety in Newsweek once, and it will appear there one more time, in the December 6 issue, before Christmas. In addition, it's out in quantity in Waldenbooks' 800 retail stores across the country. Since it's going to reach about 8 million people, Brad Elliott, the chain's director of communications, is optimistic: "We figure that someone will probably do it," before the deadline for Christmas delivery. Well, why not a small town? The citizens could chip in, split up the books and donate the encyclopedia to the local library.

Credit for the idea, by the way, goes to Mark Lilien, manager of merchandise control for Waldenbooks. After all, what man in his position wouldn't want the thrill of seeing all those books go out at once?