Water Ways

Jasper Winn

Profile, £10.99

They’re ignored, invisible, forgotten, except by those who use them. Nevertheless, there’s more activity on Britain’s canal network nowadays than there was in its golden age. People are living, fishing and racing kayaks on them, and their wildlife corridors are thriving. Jasper Winn spent a year walking, cycling, paddleboarding and narrowboating his way around its 2,000-mile length, exploring the canals and meeting the people who have made new lives on them, as well as those of the old working boat people who still remain. Recounting the history of their construction and culture, and of the characters who worked on them, Winn’s book is a pleasant reminder of just how important the canals were in linking up the country before their role was usurped by the railways, and of the people who kept the waterways from closure by maintaining a “right of navigation” and restored them to their current state. An absorbing book, almost as enjoyable as getting lost in the network itself.

Bitter Wash Road

Garry Disher

Viper, £8.99

Constable Paul Hirschhausen paid for blowing the whistle on his corrupt colleagues by being exiled to a remote police station in South Australia. Other cops despise him, suspecting him of being just as guilty as the ones he got sent down, and Hirsch finds a bullet in the mail and incriminating evidence in his car. Called to the scene of a suspected hit-and-run, where a 16-year-old girl’s body lies at the side of the road, he suspects her death is no accident. His boss tries to persuade him not to look any deeper, but his investigation leads him to a vice ring comprised of the most powerful men in this unforgiving corner of Australia. By an author with more than 40 books to his name, this is the first UK publication of a novel that’s been out in Australia for seven years, a riveting, suspenseful thriller infused with desolation and paranoia which ratchets up the tension with well-placed twists.

Boys Will Be Boys

Clementine Ford

Oneworld, £9.99

A feminist and the mother of a young son, Clementine Ford is keenly aware of the dangers posed by toxic masculinity. Boys Will Be Boys is an impassioned polemic highlighting how the contrasting ways in which boys and girls are raised harms them both. Too many boys are still being raised with a rigid, narrow definition of masculinity centred on power and dominance, which not only becomes problematic to those around them in later life (as an overview of rape culture, this book is horrifyingly bleak) but restricts the development of their own identities. Stereotypical male roles involve repressing emotions and pushing away fears and doubts, which can cause severe emotional harm, and Ford argues that allowing boys to develop healthy relationships with each other is an important first step. Her insights may not be especially new but, given some of the shamelessly misogynistic views expressed in the wake of the #MeToo movement, they can’t be restated enough.

Alastair Mabbott