Best new books in the field: our springtime ramblers' round-up

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FLOODS ... snow ... fierce cold winds ... yes, spring is here again! And what better time to do a round-up of all the newest wildlife guides for you to take out on your rural rambles!

Here, then, are half a dozen of the best new books on nature of all the thousands we have been sent ...

Janet Street-Porter's Book of Country Wisdom

You've seen her striding out on TV from coast to coast, walking through the middle of crop fields or hopelessly lost in a small spinney, bringing to the study of nature all the piercing insight she lavished on the media world. Now here, within hard covers, are the most penetrating of her observations on the countryside, such as "Cor, I wish I'd brought a compass", "Blimey, these boots are killing me", "I fink I'm totally lost", "Ere, didn't we walk along this very same path about twenty minutes ago?" and "Hey - fancy bumping into Jim Davidson here!" Endearingly dotty.

The Great Pop-Up Book of The Countryside March.

A wonderful souvenir of a wonderful occasion. Absolutely everyone is there, including - rather mischievously - Michael Foster. And is that a fox peeping out on page 23, halfway along Piccadilly? I rather think it is.

The Canal-Boat User's Guide to Nature

It may not occur to most of us, but the view from a canal boat is the same low-angled view enjoyed by a five-year-old child. Nature looks very different from down there. You see mostly the underside of things. In the case of hastily retreating coots, moorhens, and so on, you only see the backside of things. This, then, is perhaps the first nature book which sees nature from underneath and behind. No tree is pictured except for its lower trunk, for instance, and all flying birds are seen from below rather like an aeroplane recognition chart. It will appeal to all canal- boat users, and also of course to all five-year-old children and dwarves, and pixies and elves.

The Colonialisation of Pets, by John Pilger

It isn't often you get an overtly political book on animals, but this is a significant enlarging of our view of the animal world. Mr Pilger has one single striking thesis, and it is this: now that the British now longer have an Empire, we can still fulfil our imperial role by ordering pets around. Our attitude to our dogs and cats is the same, he says, as our old attitude to the native races of Africa and Asia: dominating, demeaning, arrogant and harmful. He calls on the pets of the world to throw off their hateful colonial subservience and to bite the hand that feeds them. He points to Australia as the land of hope, where rabbit has constantly outwitted man, where budgerigars fly free and where dogs in the shape of wild dingoes have set up their own self-ruling and independent rudimentary democracies.

The Fox-Hunter's Guide to Debate and Clear Thinking

The average hunting person doesn't think a lot. He or she just gets on with it. So when he or she has to defend his or her sport, he or she is at a bit of a loss. They can't see the point of saying "He or she" the whole time, for instance. And they constantly get trapped by clever anti- hunt people. If, for instance, a hunter says that hunting is the best way of eliminating foxes, somebody might ask: "Then why hasn't the fox been eliminated by now?" If a hunter says that the whole shape of the countryside has been made by hunting, some clever dick might point to a part of England where hunting has never been known and which looks the same as the rest. This sort of thing stymies a hunter. But thanks to this new book, the hunting fraternity can now learn how to argue and outfox the smartarse city dweller.

A Hundred Ways To Annoy An Angler

As the author says, the best way to annoy an angler is simply to ask him what he's caught and then laugh, but everything else is here, from throwing stones in the water to bicycling over his rod from behind.

The Observer's Book of Dead Nature

Someone once said that 50 per cent of everything we see on a country walk is either dead, pretending to be dead or so uninteresting that it might as well be dead, but this is the first nature guide that fully recognises this fact. Copious illustrations tell you how to tell trees apart in winter time, how to identify dead birds, which dead leaf is which, what that skeleton means and why that fish is floating upside down. Well illustrated charts of animal droppings. Sobering and instructive.