James Delingpole in The Telegraph absolves you ... from any bookguilt actually:
You can still count as a civilised person, with the right to comment as much as you wish on the key literary issues of our time, without having read all the books you are supposed to have read.Whilst he's not arguing against the literary canon, he says :
Partly you're excused by the issue of time. In the early 19th century, it might just have been possible for a sprightly reader with bags of leisure time to whizz through all the great novels that had ever been written. In the early 21st century, it's an impossibility.
Mainly though, you're excused by the fact that there's no novelist out there so essential that an unfamiliarity with his work represents a crime against taste and good judgment.
... once you've had a reasonable grounding in sufficient "proper" literature to form your taste, you should never again read a book out of duty. Far too many of the (depressingly few) novel-readers I know do, though. They feel compelled to read the must-read new literary prizewinner; the must-read new, vibrant-insight-into-remote-foreign-culture novel. They have this idea in their heads, instilled from having to revere the classics at school, that literature is a lofty thing, that the best writing is fine writing or stuff they don't quite understand or feels slightly hard work.