Home From Siberia: The Secret Odysseys of Interned American Airmen in World War II, by Otis Hays Jr. (Texas A&M, $29.50). Here is a fascinating footnote to the history of World War II. More than 300 American airmen crashlanded in the Soviet Union after their planes had dumped bombs on Japan. But since the Soviet Union was not at war with Japan, under international law the bomber crews had to be interned. This the Russians diligently did, but because they were also an ally of the United States they secretly transported the airmen to Iran (after delays of many months), where they were released to U.S. forces. As always with the Soviets, the secrecy and paranoia about discovery came naturally. As for the Americans, it was not until 1988 that Congress passed legislation entitling these airmen to POW benefits.

Gambling and Speculation: A Theory, a History, and a Future of Some Human Decisions, by Reuven Brenner with Gabrielle A. Brenner (Cambridge, $29.95). This study of gambling slaughters a few sacred cows. Contrary to widespread belief, most lottery winners seem not to squander their gains on frivolities. The average age of 576 American winners of $50,000 or more in a survey was 54, and they try the lottery, according to the authors, with a view toward "educating their children, buying a home, and buying household products; and when they win the big prize, this is indeed what they do with their money." The authors attribute most arguments against legalized gambling to uninformed prejudice.

Phi Beta Kappa in American Life: The First Two Hundred Years, by Richard Nelson Current (Oxford, $29.95). America's foremost honor society first took root at William and Mary in 1776, when a 15-year-old student and his friends founded a club whose motto, "Love of wisdom the guide of life," found shorthand expression in the Greek letters Phi Beta Kappa. In his preface the author explains that although his history of the society began with "official" sanction, it went off the tracks in the judgment of "five Phi Beta Kappa senators, {who} unanimously disapproved large portions of the manuscript." Their reasoning? Too much accentuation of the negative, by which they probably meant such passages as this: "In the 1960s and 1970s, the campus revolt presented a twofold challenge to Phi Beta Kappa. For one thing, it led to a lowering of . . . educational standards . . . For another thing, it caused some of the brightest students . . . to repudiate the society itself."

The Civil War Battlefield Guide, by the Conservation Fund, edited by Frances H. Kennedy (Houghton Mifflin, $29.95). Unlike most environmental groups, the Conservation Fund devotes itself to saving not only wilderness but also historic sites, including the 58 Civil War battlefields covered in this guidebook. "More than half of them," notes the Fund's president, McArthur Foundation laureate Patrick Noonan, "lack adequate protection by public or private agencies." For each site the book provides a blow-by-blow account of the pertinent battle, with vectors of blue (for the Yanks) and red (the Rebs) superimposed on maps to illustrate troop movements. There are also ample period drawings and photographs, and the proceeds will go to saving the battlefields themselves.