Books We’re Reading


The Human Venture community is dedicated to the ongoing identification and collection of resources that point to the leading edge of human and social development. The resources cover various fields of endeavour, times in history, authors and pioneer leaders. New resources will be announced through our newsletter.

Book Lists


These book lists are from the Human Venture Institute library and are a small representation of the breadth and depth of cultural resources that the Human Venture community is drawing on. The book lists are meant to support a self-guided exploration into Human Learning Ecology. This path is available to anyone, as long as you are willing to search through history and current events. Through thoughtful, caring and determined discipline one can discover patterns of progress and resistance in human and social development.

For more information on Human Learning Ecology or the Human Venture Framework, please Contact Us or visit our Programs.

Recommended Reading/Viewing:

  1. “A Short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright; Anansi Press, Toronto, 2004 [paperback edition], 2006 [hardcover, illustrated edition]
  2. “Surviving Progress” a film by Mathieu Roy & Harold Crooks; 2011

Further Exploration:

  1. “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future” by Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway; Columbia University Press, 2014
  2. “Ten Billion” by Stephen Emmott; Penguin, 2013
  3. “Progress or Collapse: The Crisis of Market Greed” by Roberto De Vogli; Routledge, 2013
  4. “The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit” by Dimitry Orlov; New Society Publishers, 2013
  5. “The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age” by John Michael Greer; New Society Publishers, 2008
  6. “Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond; Viking Press, 2005 [also available as an audio book.]
  7. “Dark Age Ahead” by Jane Jacobs; Vintage Canada Edition, 2005
  8. “Guns, Germs & Steel: The fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond; W.W. Norton & Company, 1999 [Available as an audio book and as a 3 hour National Geographic documentary on DVD]
  9. “Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects” by Dmitry Orlov; New Society Publishers, 2008
  10. “The Collapse of Complex Societies” by Jospeh Tainter; Cambridge University Press, 1990

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is progress?
  2. How do we / can we know?
  3. How can we be mistaken?
  4. Why do societies / civilizations fail?
  5. What developments are needed to reduce the risk of catastrophic failure of our own civilization?
  6. Why is it important to be seeking answers to Gauguin’s questions? [Short History of Progress – Chapter 1]
  7. How can we do that?
  8. What does all this have to do with leadership?
  9. What does all this have to do with your own life journey?
Recommended Reading:

  1. “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson; Harcourt 2007
  2. “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious At Our Own Peril” by Margaret Heffernan; Doubleday 2011
  3. “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies & Why” by Lawrence Gonzales; W. W. Norton, New York, 2005

Further Exploration:

  1. “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence” by Norman Dixon; Pimlico; New Edition, 1994
  2. “Organizational Traps: Leadership, Culture and Organizational Design” by Chris Argyris; Oxford University Press, 2012

Reflection Questions:

  1. What do these books tell us about the origin of ignorance and error in our own and others’ thinking?
  2. Why is it important that we understand these difficulties?
  3. What social/cultural resources and processes are required to keep leaders and the public from being trapped in narrowly self-serving or affirming but maladaptive views of reality? Why is this likely to be a battle?
  4. Choose at least six quotes or passages from the books that you found particularly significant. Write about why you chose them.
  5. Look for examples of willful blindness, denial and confirmation bias in the news, events around you and in your own thinking. Record some of your observations.
Recommended Reading/Viewing:

  1. “Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid” by Samantha Nutt; Signal, 2011
  2. “Sophie Scholl and The White Rose” by Annette Dumbach & Jed Newborn; One World, Oxford, 2009
  3. “Extraordinary Evil: a Brief History of Genocide” by Barbara Coloroso; Viking Canada, Toronto, 2000
  4. “Freedom Writers”, a film by Richard LaGravenese, 2007
  5. How Not to Reconstruct Iraq, Afghanistan, or America: A Guide to Disaster at Home and Abroad” by Peter Van Buren, Common Dreams

Further Exploration:

  1. “Time for Outrage: Indignez-Vous!” by Stephane Hessel; Grand Central Publishing, 2011
  2. “As The World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial” by Derrick Jenson and Stephanie McMillan; Seven Stories Press; 2007
  3. “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” by Stephanie McMillan; Seven Stories Press, 2013
  4. “Nanking”, a film by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, 2007
  5. “V for Vendetta”, a film by James McTeigue, 2005
  6. “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward”, a film by Peter Joseph, 2011

Reflection Questions:

  1. What do these resources tell us about the need to see our situation more comprehensively?
  2. What are the challenges with that? What do these resources tell us about taking responsibility for humanity?
  3. What does that have to do with leadership?
  4. What patterns do you see in the life experiences, learning, caring and thinking of the authors/ main characters that kept them going while navigating in such difficult situations?
  5. What does it take to recognize and resist collective folly and willful blindness?
Recommended Reading:

  1. “Listen Liberal” by Thomas Frank; Metropolitan Books, 2016
  2. “What Money Can’t Buy” by Michael Sandel; FSG Adult, 2012
  3. “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” by Naomi Klein; Vintage Canada, 2008
  4. “Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul: by Gary Weiss; St. Martin’s Press, 2012
  5. “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein; Knopf Canada 2014

Further Exploration:

  1. “Shock Doctrine” – a film by Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom, 2009
  2. “Inside Job – a film by Charles Ferguson, 2010
  3. “The Corporation” – a film by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, 2003

Reflection Questions:

  1. What do these books & videos tell us about what happens when free market ideology becomes the dominant governing philosophy of human and social development?
  2. What happens to our capacity for moral reasoning and inter-generational responsibility when nature, labor and finance are commoditized?
  3. What happens to the natural systems that sustain life?
  4. Why is free market fundamentalism such a powerful force?
  5. What will it take to change course?
  6. What will happen to us, and future generations if we don’t?
Recommended Reading: 

  1. “How Does Societal Transformation Happen? Values Development, Collective Wisdom, and Decision Making for the Common Good” (Quaker Institute for the Future Pamphlets Book 5) by Leonard Joy; Produccicones de La Hamaca, 2011
  2. “Forced to Change: Crises and Reform in the Canadian Armed Forces” by Colonel Bernd Horn and Dr. Bill Bentley; Dundurn Toronto, 2015
  3. “Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy” by Peter Brown & Geoffrey Garver; Barret- Koehler, 2009

Further Exploration: 

  1. “Reconstructing Project Management Reprised: A Knowledge Perspective” by Peter Morris, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013
  2. “Reconstructing Sociology: The Critical Realist Approach” by Douglas Porpora; Cambridge University Press, 2015
  3. “Transforming Human Culture: Social Evolution and the Planetary Crisis” by Jay Early; State University of New York Press, 1997

Reflection Questions: 

  1. What do these books tell us about the need for societal transformation and what capacities it will take to make it happen?
  2. How will we know if our culture is truly shifting? What should we be tracking/ paying attention to?
  3. What does it take to sustain the transformation of culture/ society? What pitfalls must we avoid?