One fairly quick and easy way to find out what's considered the best English-language literature available is to peruse the annual prize winners' lists. Print out a copy of a list and take it to Barnes & Nobel or Borders and buy two or three of these books for your reading pleasure.
If you would like some poetry recommendations, just ask. My knowledge of contemporary fiction is limited at best, but I do keep up with the latest in poetry. For novels and non-fiction, I rely on lists like these:
Publishers' Weekly Ten Best Books of 2009 (. . .and I've not read any of them!)
National Book Award Winners for 2009
The Man Booker Prize (UK) shortlist. . .Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall won
Pulitzer Prize winners for 2009. . .W.S. Merwin wins in poetry (no surprise there)
Nobel Prize in Literature: Herta Muller (never heard of her)
Poetry Foundation's Ruth Lilly Prize winners list