Condensing the Highton 5-year plan

To read the original post on Jake Highton’s 5-year reading/culture plan, see it here. It contains all the back story. In short, I had planned to try to complete Highton’s reading list. It didn’t work out that way.

Also: Highton has set up a scholarship for students. Information here.

In 2013, I visited my former journalism teacher, Jake Highton.

He was professor emeritus shortly before I graduated, after grading students too harshly for too long.

He handed me two columns he wrote for the Sparks Tribune.

One, part of a three-column series on journalism schools, was titled “Five-year reading plan for journalists.” The column is more of an outline.

The second was  a column on his world hall of fame for artists on June 21, 2007. The movies on the list, 15 in all, overlap some with his five-year-plan list. Those which appear only on the hall of fame will be marked by an asterisk.

Below are lists of all the titles Highton mentioned in his column.


“Consider setting a five-year plan to read the 75 to 100 most important books ever written. The lists will vary by individual taste and interest and no list can be definitive. But such lists are a foundation for a real education,” Highton wrote in the five-year plan column.

The plan isn’t just for reading: it’s for film and music and art.


A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
The American Political Tradition by Richard Hofstadter
The Populist Movement by Lawrence Goodwyn
The Gulag Trilogy by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
“Histories of Europe and Asia with special emphasis on England, France and Germany,” he wrote.



Shakespeare: Hamlet, King Lear, MacBeth, Richard III, Julius Caesar, Othello, Anthony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merchant of Venice, King Henry IV (part one)
Tartuffe by Molière
Cyrano by Rostand
Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee



Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Germinal by Émile Zola
Canide by Voltaire
Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
1984 by George Orwell
Crime and Punishment and Brother Karamazov by Dostoyevsky
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
Christmas Story by H.L. Mencken
The Juggler of Notre Dame by Anatole France
King James Bible



Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The Diary of Anne Frank
Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography by Albert Schweitzer
One Man’s Freedom by Edward Bennet Williams
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Working by Studs Terkel
Sigmund Freud
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Friedrich Nietzsche
Niccolò Machiavelli
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
The Natural Superiority of Women by Ashley Montagu



Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as translated by Edward FitzGerald
The sonnets of Shakespeare
Anthologies of American and English poetry
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman



Citizen Kane
All Quiet on the Western Front
Grand illusion
Zorba the Greek
Dr. Strangelove
The Seventh Seal
Battleship Potemkin
La Dolce Vita
Birth of a Nation
The Grapes of Wrath
A Streetcar Named Desire
Grand Hotel*
The Third Man*
La Strada*
Wild Strawberries*
Jules and Jim*
Birth of a Nation*
(Birth of a Nation is marked in his column by the fact that it is racist. He quotes Pauline Kael: “One can trace almost every major tradition and most of the genres in movies to their sources in (Birth of a Nation.)”
Triumph of the Will*
(Triumph of the Will is marked by this comment: “Riefenstahl, perhaps the greatest documentary filmmaker even though she was a propagandist for Hitler.)”
*: These movies appear on Highton’s June 21, 2007 column, “Introducing World Hall of Fame for artists,” but not in his five-year-plan column.



Van Gogh



Richard Strauss

“All of that reading listening and viewing can be reflected in your writing: quoting, paraphrasing and alluding to,” Highton wrote.


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