Recommended Reading: 2020 Book List

Natalie MuyresArticles, Book Reviews, Updates

The Human Venture publishes a list of books annually. The list of books includes those that were either drawn on in 2020 to support our on-going explorations and programming or were acquired in recognition that they filled a gap and could be useful in the future. The Human Venture community has read all of the books on this list and found them to be an important resource to extend our understanding of human venture – counter venture paths of development and decay.

The books are grouped under different headings to highlight the range of subjects included in Human Learning Ecology. As with previous years, there is a cluster that includes Trump. Although Trump lost the election in November 2020, he and his followers claimed the election was rigged – continuing the assault on truth, reason, and civility. As we wrote in the 2019 Book List, the forces behind the Trump phenomenon are not unique to the United States; they are active in every society, accelerated by globalization and new forms of media. Although the Trump presidency has come to an end, there is much to learn from this case study and lots to monitor in the years to come. It is important to understand Trump’s worldview, how it was constructed, and where it may take his followers.

2020 was also an important year for the ongoing fight for racial equality. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement was only one of many examples of systemic racism and structural violence. Individuals in the Human Venture community were motivated by these events to evaluate their own racial bias and examine thoughtscape reconstruction. This resulted in a rich conversation online and a list of resources, including those specific to the Canadian context. 

Each year the Human Venture Associates, with Ken’s guidance, explore a specific topic as it relates to human and social development. In 2020 that topic was “Exploring the Nature and Significance of Analytics”. Data has become a major topic of debate in the media, government, and the technology sector. How data is used, shared, and controlled continues to shape our thinking. The Human Venture has just begun this inquiry and it is highly likely that this cluster of books will be repeated and added to in the coming years.

The COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world in 2020, changing the lives of so many. Communities adjusted to restrictions in movement, millions were infected, and millions lost their lives to the virus. Vaccine development was met with a degree of scientific exploration and collaboration never seen before in history, delivering a vaccine in less than a year. 2021 will see millions of people vaccinated for the virus and emerge from lockdown. This section of the booklist is understandably short but it is anticipated the study of the virus, the response, and vaccine development will emerge over the years. 

Lastly, we provide a cluster of books that may provide hope with lessons from the past that can be applied to adaptive human and social development. There is much to be learned from the threats we face as a global community but also from our greatest accomplishments. 

Cultures of Delusion, Trump & Thoughtscape Battleground

  • “Rage” by Bob Woodward (2020) Simon & Schuster
  • “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts” by Jill Abramson (2019) Simon & Schuster
  • “Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump–and Democrats from Themselves” by Rick Wilson (2020) Crown Forum
  • “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” by Mary L. Trump, Ph.D. (2020) Simon & Schuster 
  • “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America” by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leonnig (2020) Penguin Group 
  • “Why We’re Polarized” by Ezra Klein (2020) Simon & Schuster
  • “The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World” by Lindsey McGoey (2019) Zed Books Ltd
  • “Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy” by David Frum (2020) Harper
  • “Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers” by Jerrol Post M.D. and Stephanie Doucette (2019) Pegasus Books 
  • “Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry” by Robert Jay Lifton (2019) The New Press 
  • “The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control” by Steven Hassan (2019) Free Press 
  • “Atlas of Prejudice: The Complete Stereotype Map Collection” by Yanko Tsvetkov (2017) Alphadesigner
  • “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements” by Eric Hoffer; various editions, first published in 1951


  • “The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism” by Thomas Frank (2020) Metropolitan Books
  • “Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism” by Pippa Norris (2019) Cambridge University Press 
  • “Cult OF MAGA: How Trump turned apathy into idolatry through white hot populism, tepid placations and stone cold lies” by Kris Lynch (2019) 
  • “From Fascism to Populism in History” by Federico Finchelstein (2017) University of California Press 
  • “Populism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)” by Cas Mudde (2017) Oxford University Press
  • “The Populist Vision” by Charles Postel (2007) Oxford University Press
  • “Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred” by John Lukacs (2005) Yale University Press

Structural Violence  – Racism

  • “The End of Policing” by Alex S. Vitale (2017) Verso
  • “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo (2018) Beacon Press 
  • “So you Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo (2018) Seal Press 
  • “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin (1993) Vintage
  • “I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter” by David Chariandy (2018) McClelland & Stewart 
  • “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack”
  • “The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing (The Social Justice Handbook Series)” by A. Singh (2019) New Harbinger Publications 
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010) The New Press Inc.

Structural Violence  – Racism, Canadian-Specific

  • “Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City” by Tanya Talaga (2017) Anansi Press 
  • “Until We are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada”, Editors: Rodney Diverlus and Sandy Hudson (2020) U of R Press 
  • “Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present” by Robyn Maynard (2017) Fernwood Publishing 
  • “21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality” by Bob Joseph (2018) Indigenous Relations Press 
  • “The History of Immigration and Racism in Canada: Essential Readings by Barrington Walker* (2008) Canadian Scholars Press
  • “Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950” by Constance Backhouse* (1999) University of Toronto Press
  • “How to be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi (2019) One World 
  • “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson (2014) Spiegel & Grau
  • “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown (2018) Convergent Books 
  • “Good Talk” by Mira Jacob (2019) One World
  • “The Inconvenient Indian” by Thomas King (2012) Doubleday Canada 
  • “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (Young Adult fiction) (2017) Balzer + Bray
  • “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson (Young Adult fiction) (2014) Nancy Paulsen Books 
  • “I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street” by Matt Taibbi (2017) Spiegel & Grau
  • “A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” by Phil Fontaine (2015) University of Manitoba Press

*More academic (and more expensive), but highly recommended by someone who has done a lot of work in this area.


  • “If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future” by Jill Lepore (2020) Liveright 
  • “Predictive Analytics For Dummies” by Dr. Anasse Bari (2014) For Dummies
  • “All Things Being Equal: Why Math Is the Key to a Better World” by John Mighton, Todd Van Allen, et al. (2020) Knopf Canada 
  • “Computational Propaganda: Political Parties, Politicians, and Political Manipulation on Social Media” edited by Samuel Woolley & Philip Howard; (2019) Oxford University Press
  • “The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing” by Merve Emre; (2018) Doubleday
  • “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy” by Cathy O’Neill (2016) Penguin Random House, New York


  • “The Atlas of Disease: Mapping deadly epidemics and contagion from the plague to the coronavirus” virus by Sandra Hempel (2018) White Lion Publishing
  • “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs” by Michael Osterholm (2017) Little, Brown and Company

Culture & Adaptive Development

  • “HumanKind: A Hopeful History” by Rutger Bregman (2020) Little, Brown and Company
  • “A New Reality: Human Evolution for a Sustainable Future” by Jonas Salk and Jonathan Salk (2018) City Point Press 
  • “Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities” by Rebecca Solnit (2005) Canongate Books
  • “Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives” by Daniel J Levitin (2020) Dutton Books
  • “History of the World Map by Map” by DK Publishing (2018) Self Published
  • “The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous” by Joseph Henrich (2020) Farrar, Straus and Giroux