Id read most of the books on the first half of Jason Jewells cultural literacy test, but I predicted I would do worse on the second half.
Turns out I was wrong; the second half is out now, and in fact I did about as well on it as on the first one. But thats largely because a) its heavily weighted toward pre-1945 fiction, and b) the post-1945 stuff includes a high percentage of science fiction. (To the best of my recollection only about three of these books were assigned to me in school.)
Once again I have to grump about the cultural-conservative signing statements. It would be nice to be given some actual examples of practically valueless works that are praised and showered with awards by the academic left; I regard this claim as largely a right-wing myth. Certainly many of the lefts beloved race-and-gender writers W.E.B. Du Bois, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Olive Schreiner (a favourite of Benjamin Tuckers, by the way), Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, etc. are damn good writers, and seem to be excluded from this list more for reasons of right-wing political correctness than on the basis of their merits. (Zora Neale Hurston, for example, is another race/gender author whos popular with the academic left; but because shes a libertarian she makes it onto Jewells list while the others dont. Now cmon; socialists kan rite gud too.)
A few more quibbles:
Why on earth is Huckleberry Finn missing? Jewell includes Tom Sawyer, and claims that its a frequent target of banning; maybe it is, but Huckleberry Finn is much more so, and is in any case a better book. (Im almost tempted to think Jewell has confused the two.)
Chesterton is a delightful writer, but The Man Who Was Thursday is one of his least interesting novels. The Ball and the Cross, The Flying Inn, and The Lion of Notting Hill (inanely published as The Napoleon of Notting Hill) are much better.
I find the comparison between Wilde and Proust somewhat baffling; they dont seem all that much alike to me. Okay, so theyre both turn-of-the-century figures, theyre both gay, and they both write beautifully, but that seems a rather superficial basis for lumping them together: Wilde sketches in quick, brilliant strokes, while Proust is an artist of meticulous detail.
Asimov is good with clever ideas, but hes not a great writer; if youre looking for serious literary merit in classic science fiction youd do better with, say, Bradbury or LeGuin.
The notion that Interview with the Vampire is a pale imitation of Dracula is pretty silly (will anyone claim that Stoker is better at characterisation and dialogue than Rice? the only good dialogue in all of Dracula is Van Helsings King Laugh speech) as is Jewells disapproval of Interviews moral ambiguity (if youre uncomfortable with moral ambiguity youre going to have a hard time enjoying much of western literature). (For my own take on Anne Rices vampires and a comparison with Chesterton! see here and here.)