Who wants to be a macha woman? Writer-journalist Grace Lichtenstein (Desperado) herself isn't sure, having survived an Outward Bound program with other 30-year-old-plus women, having suffered through a difficult trek across the Himalayas, and having interviewed the likes of distance-swimmer-cum-showwoman Diana Nyad. Lichtenstein, who recognizes the ambiguity in this ""exaggerated female pride,"" opts to retain the good qualities, ""ambition, self-reliance, flair, aggressiveness,"" while rejecting the bad: ""the boasting, the one-upmanship, the need to always come out on top."" Though we never clearly understand why Billie Jean King has machisma and Chris Evert Lloyd doesn't, we are treated to interviews with a variety of women who make risk and adventure part of their everyday lives. Janet Guthrie, shy-physicist-turned-race-car-driver, talks of the need for emotional detachment--""The essence is getting that car balanced on that beautiful edge""--and wishes that her colleagues would show more of it off the track: ""The flack ought to end. I have a record. The record is a good one."" Her cool is reflected in the matter-of-fact acceptance of the housewife become a professional hang-glider and the sisterhood of the mother/daughter stunt team. Macha women are not confined to sports: many get their kicks through business competition. Bettina Parker got her big break when, as a representative at the 1966 Moscow Trade Exhibit, she walked up to Brezhnev and insisted he look at her exhibit of communications equipment: ""I had spent a lot of time putting this show together and I was not going to let the biggest dignitary in the country pass me by."" She now runs a high-powered consulting firm helping clients sell to the Communist bloc. Others are sexual adventurers (Suzy Chafee: ""I have a Joan of Arc in me, a Lady Godiva, a poet, a philosopher, an actress. . ."") or take personal risks in the arts (Katharine Hepburn, Bonnie Raitt), or in politics (Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan). Lichtenstein clearly believes the macha woman is here to stay. ""She is the newest daughter in a long line of pioneers. Maybe she's your daughter. Maybe she's you."" Maybe she's not, but whoever she is she makes for lively, occasionally even inspiring reading.