Sounds like English was approached differently at my school than it was at you guys'; with us, we'd read a book and the class would analyse it among ourselves as we went along, taking it in whatever direction we wanted, and occasionally directed a bit by the teacher. I guess that's probably why I love taking literature apart and putting it back together again; I was taught to do it for fun, in the context of a lively debate among a group of people having a good time. There was never more than a little prod in terms of direction from the teacher, and by the end of the year we'd invented more than enough material to pass our exams by ourselves - we just had to sort through it all and see what fitted the themes we were supposed to be studying.
We read all sorts, too. I think in the course of four years I studied The Canterbury Tales (with particular emphasis on "The Pardoner's Tale"), Macbeth, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Dubliners, Things Fall Apart, Enduring Love, The Merchant of Venice, The Great Gatsby, a selection of poems by Tennyson, and more poems that I don't remember. The main point is, pretty much all of our material we developed ourselves, which I think is a pretty good way to study English and sharpen your critical skills, and probably why I'm about to head off to uni to study English Literature now.
As for music... I always listen to it while writing, if I can. Something weird but without too many words is good (Nox Arcana is an old standby, though it does tend to make me introduce Lovecraftian horror into my work, and hence can be credited with creating the entire plot of A Smell of Petroleum Pervades Throughout by accident) but if I can't think of anything I'd like to hear in particular, I put my music on shuffle and just use it as soothing background noise to think to.
That is, unless it's raining. If it's raining, then all the music is off and the house is as silent as I can make it. Rain is the best sound to write to ever.