In 1987, E.D. Hirsch authored Cultural Literacy where he argued that children in the United States were being deprived of the basic knowledge that would enable them to function in contemporary society. He defined cultural literacy: a grasp of background information that writers and speakers assume their audience already has. Even if a student has a basic competence in the English language, he or she has little chance of entering the American mainstream without knowing what a silicon chip is, or when the Civil War was fought, etc.
Hirsch included an Appendix of 5,000 facts, dates, famous people, works of literature and concepts that every American should know. It was the Appendix that generated much heated debate. There still seems to be general agreement that there should be a common core of American knowledge, but little agreement on what that is or how it should be taught.
Cool Material recently published a list of 50 Books Every Man Should Read Once in His Life. There is some overlap with Hirsch's list but some of the books weren't published when Hirsch published Cultural Literacy (the graphic novel series Preacher).
You should probably read as much of both lists as possible. Grab a nice bottle, a good cigar, get comfy, and get started 📚 🥃