FICTION

The Rising Gorge , The Swiss Family Perelman , Baby, It's Cold Inside , by S.J. Perelman (Penguin, $6.95 each). The late S.J. Perelman wrote for both the Marx Brothers and The New Yorker, which surely stamps him as unique among humorists. He was an inspired traveler, and Swiss Family Perelman finds him and the inestimable caricaturist Hirschfeld in the Far East. On a tropical island Perelman encounters one of his quintessential eccentrics: an official "in fire-sale pajamas who inexplicably decided we had come to check up on his administration and began gibbering with terror." The other two books are collections of his fictional exploits as wordsmith and bon vivant, and the titles hold out promise -- always fulfilled -- of the word-plays, shenanigans and send-ups that they harbor: "Anna Trivia Pluralized," "I Hate Spanish Moss," "Monomania, You and Me Is Quits."

Social Disease , by Paul Rudnick (Ballantine, $6.95). Rudnick's outrageously satirical tour of the New York club scene includes a stop in the men's room in Club de (that's all there is to the name), where a woman is working on her makeup. "Men and women shared the facilities," Rudnick observes. "No one wanted to miss out on a smidgen of architecture or banter or illegal substance. Public bathrooms had become the new salons . . . " The protagonist of this tour de force is Guy Huber, a rich scion who gets up at midnight, always wears black and is just naturally happy -- "a Pollyanna in leather." The author confesses in an interview which serves as his novel's postscript that he himself is "completely hollow, like the best chocolate bunnies."

Stolen Spring , by Hans Scherfig, translated from the Danish by Frank Hugus (Fjord Press, P.O. Box 16501, Seattle, WA 98116, $7.95). There are two streams in this novel, the story of a group of graduates of a Danish preparatory school. In one, graduates of the school -- all now professionals or bureaucrats -- gather for their 25th reunion. In the second, their days at the school are recalled, together with the murder of a Latin teacher who was poisoned, perhaps by a student. Fjord Press has also published The Sardine Deception, by Leif Davidsen (translated by Tiina Nunnally and Steve Murray, $6.95), a political thriller about a journalist caught between factions of the Basque separatist movement.

NONFICTION

Tom Brown's Field Guide to the Forgotten Wilderness , by Tom Brown Jr., illustrated by Jackie McGuire (Berkley, $7.95). Many nature guides feature exotic animals in even more exotic locations. The locations in this unusual nature guide are quite ordinary -- lawns, vacant lots, playgrounds and parks -- but for those with the patience to wait and the desire to see, there is wildlife -- birds, snakes and animals -- as exotic as that in any forest or mountain grove. "The problem with most people today is that they seek the ultimate thrills and the grandiose entertainment even when they venture outdoors," Brown writes. "By training myself to see . . . I found the splendor of nature in the 'forgotten' places."

Papa John: An Autobiography , by John Phillips with Jim Jerome. (Dell, $4.95). A member of The Mamas and the Papas, one of the best-loved rock groups of the '60s, John Phillips became a heroin addict and then was arrested for conspiracy to distribute drugs. He served time in prison and was on probation for five years. This is his story, from the semester and a half he spent as a plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy to stints as a folkie with a group called the Journeymen. Success, wealth and fame followed with the Mamas and the Papas, before Phillips descended into drug addiction.

To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. , by Adam Fairclough (University of Georgia Press, $17.95). Though there have been biographies of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and histories of the civil rights movement, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference "has received scant attention from historians," argues Adam Fairclough, a lecturer in history at the University of Wales. In this history focusing on the SCLC, Fairclough begins with the organization's founding in 1957, continues through King's assassination and ends with the SCLC under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy. Though this history focuses on the reasoning that underlay SCLC action, Fairclough nonetheless acknowledges early that many of the organization's members considered it a "church" and a " 'faith operation' which depended on Christian inspiration."

The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries, 1939-1955 , by John Colville (Norton, $12.95). "Jock" Colville was private secretary to Winston Churchill during his two premierships, a position analogous to an American president's special assistant. As such, he witnessed the administration of Britain's glorious last fling as a world power, including the tense time during the Battle of Britain in 1940-41. No mere time-server, Colville left his cushy billet to become a fighter pilot later in World War II. His diaries contain up-close and fascinating vignettes of the indomitable Churchill, like this one at the height of the Blitz, on Sept. 19, 1940: "The P.M. is sufficiently undismayed by the air-raids to take note of trivialities. Yesterday he sent the following note: "First Lord. Surely you can run to a new Admiralty flag. It grieves me to see the present dingy object every morning."

Quotations From President Ron , produced by Morton Mintz, Margaret Mintz, Lee M. Kennedy, Anita F. Mintz and John S. Birdsall. (St. Martin's, $4.95). This compilation of quotations includes such gems as Reagan's gaffe in his White House welcome to boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and his wife: "We're proud to have Sugar Ray and Mrs. Ray here." Also included are his comments on the subject of age in 1979: "If I become president, other than perhaps Margaret Thatcher, I will probably be younger than almost all of the heads of state I will have to do business with." And Reagan's response when asked if he was going to visit the Vietnam War Memorial on Veterans Day: "I can't tell until somebody tells me . . . I never know where I am going."

Those Days: An American Album , by Richard Critchfield (Laurel, $8.90. The author, an honored observer of village culture in developing countries, here looks at his own roots in the rural and small-town Midwest over three generations of his family. The result is a touching and lovingly composed hymn of praise to the rolling Iowa farm country and North Dakota prairie. Any resident of those parts will immediately recognize the accuracy of Critchfield's fascinating portraits: schoolhouses heated by wood stoves, clapboard Methodist churches, whispered infidelities and long-ago scandals and the bright boys and girls who went off to college and never came back home. This is a bittersweet story about a family's decay and regeneration through love.

Guide to the Records of Your District of Columbia Ancestors , by Eleanor M.V. Cook ($9; Family Line Publications, 13405 Collingwood Terrace, Silver Spring, MD 20904.) This slim book begins with a history of the city from the establishment of Georgetown in 1751, Congress' decision in 1790 to build a permanent capital, the revocation of Georgetown's charter in 1871 and its loss of its identity as a separate town in 1895. The author then lists sources of information -- church records, census data, city directories and military and property records -- that would be valuable to people seeking information about their forbears.

To the Storm: The Odyssey of a Revolutionary Chinese Woman , recounted by Yue Daiyun, written by Carolyn Wakeman (University of California Press, $9.95). A member of a family with an intellectual tradition, Yue Daiyun joined the Communist Party during the Chinese Civil War. She became a university teacher and secretary of her party branch. But the coming of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 meant that to be an intellectual was automatically to be under suspicion. This is an account of Yue Daiyun's experiences, from the first accusations that led to her being dismissed from the party to her final rehabilitation nearly two decades later.

After the Nightmare: Inside China Today , by Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro (Collier Macmillan, $8.95). This is a portrait of China co-authored by Liang Heng, a Chinese who left the country to live in the United States after marrying an American woman in 1980, and then returned two years ago with her to travel across his native land. Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro talked with peasants, filmmakers, students and others during their journey. The result is a view of China from the inside, and an account of what it is to live in that country today.

The Burning Forest: Essays on Chinese Culture and Politics , by Simon Leys (New Republic/Holt, $9.95). A collection of 14 essays on topics ranging from classical Chinese painting to the journeys of Father Huc, a 19th-century priest who wandered across China. Leys also deals with other, more modern issues, such as totalitarianism and the distortion of reality in contemporary China.

Anatomy of a Jury , by Seymour Wishman (Penguin, $6.95). Himself a lawyer, Seymour Wishman explains how a jury works by taking the reader step-by-step through a rape-murder trial, a composite of several he tried himself. Periodically he freezes the action to gloss a cryptic motion by the defense or a point reserved by the prosecution.