Books on health, diet, fitness (mental and physical), child care and the like pour off the presses of American publishing houses in bewildering profusion.

Most are worth -- at best -- the single read you can get at a public library.

There are a few significant standouts, however, that you might want for your home bookshelves. This list contains a few -- by no means all -- of the best: For Quick Reference

*"Take Care of Yourself: A Consumer's Guide to Medical Care" by Drs. Donald M. Vickery and James F. Fries. Its use of flow charts can tell you at a glance whether to "see physician now!" or "see physician today" or "make an appointment" or "apply home care" in scores of situations from poison ivy to heart failure. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. About $10.

*"The Medicine Show," by the Editors of Consumers Reports Books. Consumers Union's common sense guide to health products and the problems they purport to alleviate. Pantheon Books. About $6.

*"The Essential Guide to Nonprescription Drugs" by David R. Zimmerman. Tells you the latest Food and Drug Administration assessment of the safety and effectiveness of the ingredients in more than 1,000 over-the-counter medications. Harper Colophon Books, about $11. Mostly for Women

*"The New Our Bodies, Ourselves" by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. A faintly polemical, clinically candid and informative education in womanhood -- physiological, psychological, sexual and political. About $13, Simon & Schuster.

*"The Complete Guide to Women's Health" by Dr. Bruce D. Shephard and Carroll A. Shephard, RN, PhD. The single best reference on women's health problems newly available in paperback. No nonsense, no patronizing, lots of important information. Uses flow charts. New American Library, about $12. For Parents

*"Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care by Drs. Benjamin Spock and Michael B. Rothenberg. Can you believe the 40th anniversary edition? No parent should be without this ultimate authority on everything from thrush to divorce. Pocket Books, about $5. "Infants and Mothers," "Toddlers and Parents," "On Becoming a Family," all by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton,a specialist in the emotional development of children. . Dell, about $9.

*"First Feelings" by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Nancy Thorndyke Greenspan. How a child's emotions develop and how the parent can help. Viking. $17.95. Three Books That Sound Specialized but Aren't

*"Dr. Cohen's Healthy Sailor Book," by Philadelphia neurologist Dr. Michael Martin Cohen. Essential for the sailor, but also contains a wealth of useful information on all sorts of beach and water emergencies from jellyfish to sea sickness to the mammalian diving reflex. International Marine Publishing Co., Camden, Maine. About $18.

*"Diabetes," by Dr. James W. Anderson. A splendid health guide for diabetics, but also for healthy eating for everybody, from this specialist in the use of dietary bran to help control diabetes. Bran, Anderson has found, especially oat bran, does a lot more than regularize the gastrointestinal tract. Arco, $7.95.

*"The Doctors' Anti-Breast Cancer Diet," by Dr. Sherwood L. Gorbach, David R. Zimmerman and Margo Woods, DSc. This low-fat, high-complex-carbohydrate diet is essentially the one currently being recommended to help prevent many cancers, gastrointestinal disorders and heart disease. Sensible and easy recipes. Simon and Schuster, about $16. % For Combating Stress "The Relaxation Response," by Dr. Herbert Benson. An easy and painless way to learn the ways of eastern meditation. Benson is the Harvard University cardiologist who discovered that the word "one" is as effective as any mysterious "mantra" for learning to relax. Avon, $3.50.

*"QR, The Quieting Reflex," by Dr. Charles F. Stroebel. This technique evolved from Stroebel's work in biofeedback. He found that "QR" worked on its own, without the complicated biofeedback equipment. Once learned, after about three months of practice, it can undo the "fight or flight" stress reflex in six seconds. It is widely used as a complement to biofeedback training. Berkeley, about $3.