Recommended Reading: 2021 Book List

Natalie MuyresArticles, Book Reviews

The Human Venture publishes a list of books and other resources annually. The list includes books that were either drawn on through the year to support our ongoing 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 (or re-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. Films and documentaries are also included on the list.

About the 2021 list:

2021 continued to be a “pandemic year.” The COVID-19 virus continued to impact our daily lives and communities, testing our patience, but also highlighting our resilience. Books about the pandemic are being written and there will be many to read in the years to come. They will include what was learned, what wasn’t, and how to prepare for the next pandemic. 

Although there is much to be learned from the pandemic and science, there are patterns and lessons in the story of human striving from various fields of endeavour over the course of human history. The 2021 book list represents a wide range of interests, current events, and historical accounts.

In 2021, the Human Venture Associates embarked on a year-long exploration of social movements and change. This exploration was initiated in order to evaluate what is most needed to support systemic adaptive developments in our sociocultural systems – or what is needed to support adaptive societal change. In support of this exploration, the group is reading “The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy” by Joel Mokyr. By understanding the creation, dissemination, and adoption of knowledge throughout history, specifically the Industrial Revolution, we are able to develop strategies that will be most helpful and contribute to solving the greatest challenges of our time. Another helpful resource is, “The Scientific Revolution: The Best One-Hour History” by Robert Freeman. Like the Industrial Revolution, there is much to be learned from the thinking and actions that led to humanity’s greatest scientific discoveries. 

The purpose of the book list is to document and share the breadth of our explorations and capture them as a future reference.

Happy exploring!

Culture, Striving, and Adaptive Development

  • “The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous” by Joseph Henrich; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020
  • Movie:“The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel” from Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott, 2020
  • “The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find our Place in the Universe by Jeremy Lent; New Society Publishers, 2021
  • “Values: Building a Better World for All” by Mark Carney; McClelland & Stewart, 2021
  • “Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future” by Margaret Heffernan; Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 2020
  • Documentary: Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World, PBS
  • “War: How Conflict Shaped Us” by Margaret MacMillan; Penguin Canada, 2020
  • “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” by Jared Diamond; Viking USA, 2014
  • “The Scientific Revolution: The Best One-Hour History” by Robert Freeman; Kendall Lane Publishers, 2013
  • “The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy” by Joel Mokyr; Princeton University Press, 2004
  • “Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine” by Michele Borba, ED. D.; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021
  • “Neglected No More: The Urgent Need to Improve the Lives of Canada’s Elders in the Wake of a Pandemic” by Andre Picard; Random House, 2021
  • “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson; Simon & Schuster, 2021
  • Podcast: Walter Isaacson on facing up to the moral questions of CRISPR and gene editing, CBC The Current, 2021
  • “Greenwood: a Novel” (Fiction) by Michael Christie; McClelland & Stewart, 2019

Structural Violence, Systemic Racism, Residential Schools

The Human Venture Institute continues to explore writing and resources in support of understanding structural violence, systemic racism, and Canada’s residential schools. These suggestions are a continuation of previous years book list:

The Informationscape, Thoughtscape Construction, and Thoughtscape Battleground

  • “Hate, Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another” by Matt Taibbi; Counterpoint, 2019
  • “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity” by Toby Ord; Hachette Books, 2020
  • “Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society” by Ron Deibert; House of Anansi Press Inc, 2020
  • “We are Bellingcat: Global Crime, Online Sleuths, and the Bold Future of News” by Eliot Higgins; Bloomsbury USA, 2021
  • “The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World” by Lindsey McGoey; Zed Books, 2019
  • “Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History” by Matt Taibbi; Random House Publishing Group, 2011
  • Documentary: The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear by Adam Curtis, BBC, 2004


  • “Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons” by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; MIT Press, 2021
  • “The Most Powerful Woman in the World: How Jacinda Ardern Exemplifies Progressive Leadership” by Madeleine Chapman; Skyhorse, 2020
  • “I know this to be true: Jacinda Ardern” by Ruth Hobday; Chronicle Books, 2021
  • “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by Erik Larson; Crown, 2020
  • Documentary: The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara by Errol Morris, 2003

For the Holiday Season:

  • “Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide” by Christian Ratsch & Claudia Müller-Ebeling; Inner Traditions, 2006
  • “The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Our Most Cherished Holiday” by Stephen Nissenbaum; Vintage, 1997
  • “Christmas Customs and Traditions” by Clement A. Miles; Dover Publications, 2011
  • “Christmas: A History” by Mark Connelly; I. B. Tauris; 2012
  • Movie: “The Man Who Invented Christmas” directed by Bharat Nalluri and starring Christopher Plummer, 2017