Jerry Coleman says:
In introducing friends to the canals I often suggest some books to read. Here are my thoughts. Anyone have others to add?
"Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome. A classic humor book about a trip on the Thames. Written in late 1880's but still great. (To the Yanks on the list - an English Mark Twain)
"The Worst Journey in the Midlands" by Sam Llewellyn. Another humor book about a boat trip.
"Swing, Swing Together" by Peter Lovesey. Murder mystery which follows the path of Three Men in a Boat.
"Clutch of Constables" by Nagio Marsh. Murder mystery set on a canal boat.
"The Wench is Dead" by Collin Dexter. An Inspector Morse murder mystery which solves an actual murder which took place on the Oxford Canal about 100 years ago. (Several of the Morse mysteries touch on the Oxford Canal or the Thames around Oxford).
"Footsteps at the Lock" by Ronald Knox. A mystery written in the 1930's which takes place on the Thames (may not be available in the U.S.)
"Devices and Desires" by P.D. James. A murder mystery involving a church located along the Regent's Canal.
"And a Right Good Crew" by Emily Kimbrough. Narrative about a canal trip.
"The Canal Age" by Charles Hadfield. History of the canals.
"Shell Guide to the Inland Waterways" A good reference, although a new edition would be helpful.
"The Huffler" by Jill Paton Walsh, a juvenile book which gives good descriptions of how canals work.
Don't forget the outstanding autobiographical writing of L.T.C. Rolt:
I've got to add another of Tom Rolt's books, "Narrowboat". This was the one that got it all going.