On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 books of poetry, 11 photo albums, 10 English mysteries, nine works of history, eight good biographies, seven books on animals, six story collections, five espionage thrillers, four policy studies, three epic fantasies, two wartime memoirs, and a large coffee table art book. For specific titles, see this page and those that follow. Lady Liberty

STATUE OF LIBERTY: The First Hundred Years, by Christian Blanchet and Bertrand Dard. English language version by Bernard A. Weisberger (American Heritage, $29.95). "Everything is big here -- even the peas," sculptor Fr,ed,ic Auguste Bartholdi wrote home to France from the United States. The statue "of colossal proportions" which he created in response has become one of our most potent national symbols. After chronicling the history of its creation, Blanchet and Dard spike up this highly imaginative centennial volume with hundreds of cartoons, engravings and photographs which effectively project the many meanings the Statue of Liberty has had for her viewers over the past century. Although conventional sentiments find expression in reproductions of political cartoons, sets for Broadway musicals and illustrated kitsch dinnerware, the authors also have an eye for the statue's inherent surrealism, and obviously delight in the transformations inflicted on her by contemporary artists, whose far less reverent ideas fill the book's final pages.

LIBERTY: The Statue and the American Dream, by Leslie Allen (Summit, $32.95). This book represents a patriotic gesture on a grand scale. Summit Books, the National Geographic Society, the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and QuadGraphics Inc. have joined forces to put this volume together as the official publication of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, and all proceeds from its sale will go toward restoration of the statue. In his introduction foundation chairman Lee Iacocca defines the book's intent as to tell "in words and pictures . . . the story of millions of people who left everything they knew for a chance at something better," while expecting "only a shovel and a chance to work." Despite all this nobility of purpose the result is attractive and ingratiating. Hundreds of old photographs -- a number of them real stunners -- recreate the early days in America of individual ethnic groups and the contributions they made to America's cultural growth and identity. Equally evocative are the many first-person accounts of the Ellis Island experience and the days immediately after it that Allen weaves into his text.

FREEDOM'S HOLY LIGHT, by Richard H. Schneider, Foreword by President Ronald Reagan (Nelson, $14.95). Any Statue of Liberty Centennial publication project seeking to outdo this one in grandiloquence will have a tough row to hoe. Author Schneider gets the ball rolling with his Dedication to his ancestors "who had the courage to forge new lives in America so that I can say, 'This is my own, my native land.'" President Reagan ups this a notch in his page-long Foreword with his statement that "God put this land of ours where He did to be found by a special kind of people -- those who love liberty enough and have courage enough to make any sacrifice, even to leave home, to secure it; those who dare to live the motto, 'Where liberty dwells, there is my country.'" Finally, Lee Iacocca puts a point on all this rhetoric by reminding the reader that "Almost half of all Americans alive today trace their roots to those who first set foot in America on Ellis Island." Once through this flurry of preferatory material, the reader will find an informal, anecdotal history of the statue that places the accent squarely on sentiment. Schneider is obviously sincere in his emotionalsim, however, and many readers may feel that this volume comes closest to capturing their own feelings about Lady Liberty. Well-chosen illustrations extend the mood of the text effectively.

HOW THEY BUILT THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, by Mary J. Shapiro (Random House, $9.95); THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, by Mary Virginia Fox (Little Simon, $7.95); THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, by Leonard Everett Fisher (Holiday, $12.95). The festivities surrounding the Statue of Liberty centennial have generated a number of more specialized, less elaborate books. Among the most satisfying of them is Mary J. Shapiro's step-by-step account of how the 151-foot figure was erected. Niftily illustrated by Huck Scarry, the book is written in a concise style that will be especially appealing to young adult readers with an engineering bent. Mary Virginia Fox's account of the statue's history is aimed at young readers -- from age 8 up -- and again the illustrations are a strong point, including old photos and engravings, architect's drawings, and even a detatchable poster. Adult browsers may also learn a thing or two (did you know that the statue weighs as much as a herd of 45 full-grown elephants?). Leonard Everett Fisher's tribute to Miss Liberty nicely counterpoints full-page period and modern illustrations with a lively but factual text.

-- Bob Halliday O Beautiful!

GEORGE INNESS, by Nicolai Cikovski Jr. and Michael Quick (Harper & Row, $40). George Inness (1825-1894) was a contemporary -- but not quite a member -- of the Hudson River School. What sets him apart from them is his tendency toward abstraction, most evident in late landscapes like The Home of the Heron, an arrangement of orange, gold, and black in which one of the co-authors discerns "a harmonic order." An admirer of Delacroix, Corot and other French masters, Inness also owed much to Turner and the Impressionists, though he was at pains to deny the influence of either. Regardless of antecedents, he is one of the great American landscape painters, and this handsome catalogue heralds the arrival of a grand Inness exhibition at the National Gallery next summer.

AMERICAN ART NOW, by Edward Lucie- Smith (Morrow, $24.95). The English critic Edward Lucie-Smith here takes a look at American art in the '80s, a time when Manhattan Island is no longer the "hot" creative center. After surveying various styles of art -- the replica sculpture of Duane Hanson and John De Andrea, the ultrarealism of Richard Estes and Robert Bechtle -- he moves on to regional chapters, on Chicago, Texas, and points beyond. His favorite image for the decade is James Croak's Pegasus: Some Loves Hurt More than Others, a mixed- media sculpture in which a winged horse bursts through the roof of a 1963 Chevy lowrider. To Lucie-Smith both horse and smashed auto represent "renegade personal freedom," a trait he also attributes to the contemporary American artistic scene.

-- Dennis Drabelle

THE AMERICAN WING AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, by Marshall B. Davidson and Elizabeth Stillinger (MMA/Knopf, $50). If one had to pick one art book this year to receive as a gift, this might be it. Not for its excellence of illustrations -- the layouts are often crowded, and the pictures sometimes seem cramped. No, the overarching merit of this book is the breathtaking and comprehensive overview it gives of four centuries of American furniture, silver, pewter, glass, pottery, porcelain, paintings, prints, drawings and watercolors. The captions and text thoroughly discuss examples drawn from the vast holdings of the Met, the examples being illustrated in 524 plates, 251 of them in color. Spoiled and pampered by Washington's museums as we are, the Met undoubtedly is the treasure house on this continent. The section covering furniture is intensely interesting, even for people who ordinarily find rooms of furniture in museums stultifyingly boring.

JOHN FREDERICK KENSETT: An American Master, by John Paul Driscoll and John K. Howat (Worcester Art Museum/Norton, $35). This charming, beautiful book forcefully reminds one that the reputations of artists constantly change, and that museums perform valuable service in forcing these reappraisals. No so long ago John Frederick Kensett's land- and seascapes would have been considered hopelessly antique, perhaps the sort of thing that might hang in the drawing room of one of John P. Marquand's stuffy Beacon Hill characters. Then came exhibitions of his work in the 1960s and '70s, culminating in the magnificent exhibition of the Luminist school at the National Gallery in 1980. Now, everyone highly regards Kensett, and no wonder: in our high-tech age, his paintings of the White Mountains, the Berkshires, the Adirondacks and the new England seashore evoke a simpler, more pastoral America, their subtle interplay of light and color testifying to nature's permanence and man's insignificance.

MARJORIE PHILLIPS AND HER PAINTINGS, by Marjorie Phillips, edited by Sylvia Partridge (Norton, $35). Marjorie Phillips, wife, mother and painter, doyenne of the Phillips Collection, scarcely needs an introduction to a Washington audience. Before her death last year at age 90, she wrote the brief reminiscences and comments for this very personal book, which serves both as autobiography and as commentary on her own paintings. Her memory extended back to a Hudson River Valley childhood at the turn of the century and embraced the establishment of one of the world's great private collections. One reads with pleasure that she painted virtually every day for 70 years. At an advanced age she could speak with almost girlish enthusiasm of her reverence for art as "The personification of love -- things that strike my imagination in a way trusted by me and different from anyone else's in the world. And still I believe with Bonnard that if we were not influenced by something in art, we would be living in a vacuum." This charming, intimate book is a surprise; one opens it and becomes entranced.

MORRIS LOUIS: The Complete Paintings -- A Catalogue Raisonn,e by Diane Upright (Abrams, $100). Morris Louis (1912-1962) moved to Washington from his native Baltimore in 1947, and his 15 years' residence here can now to be seen to be the stuff of legend. For Louis, after repeated discouragements and all the struggles we associate with the stock figure of the starving artist, burst into critical consciousness as a full-fledged genius only in the very last years of his life. This splendid book reproduces in color all but a very few of his 655 known works, notably his three major series, the Veils, Unfurleds and Stripes. If you are a fan of the Washington Colorists this is the book to own. The section on Louis' technique is fascinating.

-- Reid Beddow Home Sweet Palace

BLENHEIM REVISITED: The Spencer-Churchills and Their Palace, by Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd (Beaufort, $16.95). A chronicle from the beginning to now of England's most magnificent stately home, Blenheim Revisited is a story of people, more than of a house. The palace was a gift of the nation to the Duke of Marlborough, Marquess of Blandford, Earl of Marlborough, Lord Churchill of Sandridge, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and Prince of Mindelheim in Swabia, for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in Bavaria on August 13, 1704. He had begun life as plain John Churchill, son of a well-established West Country family. Good looks, sex appeal and wit took him into high circles, and he put his military talents to work for his country. A long succession of descendants has occupied Blenheim Palace, including the present, 11th duke. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim, and his room is preserved today as part of the tourist attraction the palace has become. Blenheim has not fallen victim to poverty, like so many of the English country houses. The dukes have usually married well, most notably the ninth duke, who entered a notoriously unhappy hitch with Consuelo, daughter of William K. Vanderbilt; but he was neither the first nor the last to fill the ducal coffers in that way. This is a good true story of one family's more than 250 years in an architectural monument. It is illustrated with fine photographs of the estate and a large number of early drawings and paintings.

ELIEL SAARINEN: Finnish-American Architect and Educator, by Albert Christ-Janer (University of Chicago Press, $15.95). "Insofar as its content was authenticated by him," writes the author, "this book may be regarded as the official biography of Eliel Saarinen." The book was originally published in the United States in 1948 and in Finland in 1951. Christ-Janer's revised edition is published posthumously; after working with Saarinen for many years, he was a distinguished professor of architecture at the University of Georgia. The revision was prompted by his dislike for some of the modern movements which presumed to claim descent from Saarinen. This engaging book, expanded from the rather terse original, is probably the best thing in print on Saarinen. Illustrated with drawings and photographs.

MACKINTOSH ARCHITECTURE: The Complete Buildings and Selected Projects, edited by Jackie Cooper (Academy Editions/(St. Martin's, $29.95). A complete review of the architectural production of the great turn-of-the-century Scottish architect, this well-illustrated volume fills a void in that it is a compact and comprehensive study. Much has been written before about Mackintosh, but heretofore the scholarship has been scattered. His interior style is immediately recognizable as British -- a version of one of his rooms was created in robin's egg blue and white for the movie My Fair Lady. The American he reminds us of the most is, of course, Frank Lloyd Wright, but there is a chicken and egg question. The Mackintosh mode is decidedly English, not American, based upon a cottage vernacular that parallels somewhat our own colonial revival in the United States. Mackintosh's work shows links to the earlier designs of Richard Norman Shaw, yet certainly with a personal touch as strong as Wright's. This is a fine volume for the specialist.

THE TALL BUILDING ARTISTICALLY RECONSIDERED: The Search for a Skyscraper Style, by Ada Louise Huxtable (Pantheon, $21.95). "Beauty or beast, the modern skyscraper is a major force with a strong magnetic field. It draws into its physical being all of the factors that propel and characterize modern civilization. The skyscraper is the point where art and the city meet." Thus writes Huxtable in her foreword, and in the pages that follow she analyzes the various ways of and reasons for skyscraper design. Technology in the last century made the skyscraper possible, and since the 1890s the question regarding style has been more or less the same: "How does one clothe the new, naked skeletion?" Some have found new paths; others have turned to tradition, giving skyscrapers Tudor and temple tops and now even Chippendale tops. Huxtable's brilliant work in architectural criticism for the New York Times is recalled again and again in her fast-paced, thoughtful essay. Fully illustrated in black and white.

THE TREASURE HOUSES OF BRITAIN: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting, edited by Gervase Jackson-Stops (National Gallery of Art and Yale University Press, $60, $24.95 paperback). The Treasure Houses exhibition, for which this is the catalogue, climaxes more than a decade of intense scholarly production on the subject of English country houses. They have been addressed from about every point of view, and this catalogue further proclaims their glory. It is lavishly produced, some 700 pages in length with color pictures of art and buildings, a group of essays and pages and pages of long captions. It could have been shorter and lighter (it weighs 61/2 pounds in paperback) and not suffered. Nevertheless it is in nearly every other respect a fine book. The essays that set the scene for the treasures, written by leading country house specialists, are especially good. Gervase Jackson-Stops presents an excellent brief foreword; we have enjoyed Mark Girouard at other times on the subject of the "power houses," and "Portraiture and the Country House," by Oliver Millar steals the show. Visually the catalogue is also a worthy memento of the exhibition.

ARCHITECTURE IN AN AGE OF SCEPTICISM: A Practitioners' Anthology, by Denys Lasdun (Oxford University Press, $39.95). This pleasantly erratic collection of essays by practicing architects was assembled by the author, a distinguished British architect, who hoped to show various viewpoints on architecture, gained from practical experience. He says his book aspires only to a "modest place" among the writings on architecture, and while it may not rival the works of Le Corbusier or Wright, it is good reading for anyone interested in modern architecture and building. Dealing with all kinds of buildings, the 12 essays fairly much cover the field. The authors are all Europeans, all very much concerned with materials, and all try hard to analyze the design process. Since the architects themselves supplied the illustrations,they are naturally of top studio quality -- and documents in and of themselves.

THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE: A Grand Tour, by Gervase Jackson-Stops and James Pipkin (New York Graphic Society, $29.95). Written to complement the current show at the National Gallery, this book features the houses that contain the treasures, with emphasis upon the interiors. The text is a well-made description in substantial detail of architectural and decorative elements that have survived mostly from the 18th century. Author and photographer have worked hand-in- glove, and the result is better coordinated than most books of the type, deserving more than a thumb- through. Jackson-Stops and Pipkin have much to say and much that they want us to feel about these places. They love their subject, and even one who is at the saturation point with country houses will linger awhile over this grand tour. Jackson-Stops, the author, is curator of the Treasure Houses exhibition, and Pipkin, the photographer, spends part of his life as a Washington lawyer. This is one of the handomest books on the Christmas market this year.

CALKE ABBYE, DERBYSHIRE: A Hidden House Revealed, by Howard Colvin (British National TrustSheridan House, $24.95). For anyone who loves old houses, this book is a must. I don't mean old houses that have been slicked up -- but tthe real things! Calke Abbey has had very little done to it since the 1860s, when good times still prevailed. Today it is shabby and magnificently mellow, and Howard Colvin doesn't want us to miss one lovely inch of it. With splendid photographs he takes us through the faded halls and saloons, telling us how it's all been the same for more than a century; sometimes he can prove his point with a documentary photograph; other times we take his word for it. The rooms are stuffed with things, as are the attics, and we see them all. At the National Gallery's country house show, you will see a great state bed from Calke Abbey: It had been packed up in the attic unused in the 18th century and was only brought down recently. Colvin shows it to us as he found it. His book is filled with discoveries. He understands the magic of old places, and he gets us there before the curators clean them up. Those who buy the book are also contributing to the fund for saving Calke Abbey.

THE NATIONAL TRUST BOOK OF THE ENGLISH HOUSE, by Clive Aslet and Alan Powers (Viking, $20). This book is not about great English country houses, but houses of "middling size." The authors tell us, "These gentlemanly but not over-grand houses form an unbroken and typically English line from the manor houses of the Saxons to the present." It was this sort of house that seemed the most threatened when the British National Trust was established in 1896 and that until about 30 years ago was the type the most commonly brought under the Trust's wing. These are the houses one passes along the road en route to the big ones: the thatched cottages, smaller manor houses (on the scale of our White House), gat lodges, suburban bungalows, and row houses. The time covered is from the 14th century to the 1970s. An excellent and readable survey.

-- William Seale Housed in Splendor

ENGLISH ELEGANCE, by Judy Brittain and Patrick Kinmonth (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $19.95). Threadbare oriental rugs, strewn across polished hardwood floors, polished silver cups filled with lead pencils set out on end tables, stacks of books on every flat surface, light streaming in through mullioned windows, and The Sunday Times folded haphazardly and left on the sofa. That's the kind of profusion of clutter and liveliness that permeates the rooms photographed for this handsome book of English home decor. Many of the rooms themselves belong to the hottest British designers -- David Mlinaric, the late Laura Ashley, Bernard Nevill -- others to artists like David Hockney and photographer Angus McBean. A few are part of famous houses like Chatsworth, or idiosyncratic ones like Madresfield in Worcestershire. All are lived-in, individualistic reflections of the people who inhabit them and a joy to look at.

THE ENGLISH HOUSE, by James Chambers (Norton, $24.95). The history of English domestic architecture and the society which gave birth to it is the subject of this informative and lavishly illustrated book. Most of the great country houses, as well as the more modest rectories, farmhouses and other structures which dot the English landscape are dealt with here, in detail and as examples of various trends in design. Most interesting are the chapters on urban housing for the upper, middle, and working classes, particularly those on the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Much of the London we see today around St. Paul's cathedral is the result of a confluence of new building codes designed to retard fire, cheap land available to real estate speculators after the fire, and general guidelines drawn up by architects like Christopher Wren who had been designated to do what little city planning could be imposed in those days.

-- Alice Digilio