Tucker Max creates a list of what he believes is the information any educated person should know. By no means a definitive list (far from it), but some good information regardless.
English lit: Read lots of novels, especially the classics. There are hundreds of sites out there that purport to list the Western Canon, browse a few and just start reading. It gives you a base from which to work and to understand the world. Almost all culture is based on previous culture–you cannot hope to understand modern media without experiencing the base it is built on. And don’t just focus on the obvious ones like Shakespeare and Chaucer; there are a lot of writers on the margins of the canon who are just as good. A few things to remember:
1. If you don’t understand something, don’t just quit. Shakespeare is hard to get through without the guidance of someone who can place it in context for you and help you wade through the language. Some things you need to take in a classroom setting, but if thats impossible, don’t be afraid to use a study aid or read a critical essay. It does not make you stupid to ask for help; quite the contrary, knowing your limits is very wise. [But at the same time, just because something is in the canon, doesn’t automatically make it good. For instance, I think James Joyce is pretty shitty.]
2. This is not easy. It’s not supposed to be.
Update: Tucker Max has since taken down his message board and the original post was lost. I believe the copy linked-to above is the best currently available.