I'm an avid reader who rarely reads fiction. On those few and far between occasions that I do, I always feel better about the world and the insights into the human condition. But frankly I'd rather go to the dentist's office with my latest non-fiction selection in hand than sit comfortably at home curled up with a novel.
The Big Read, with its mission to "revitalize the role of literature in American popular culture," was made for people like me. The National Endowment for the Arts, which funds the Big Read, gives cities all over the country money to encourage us citizens to read good, important books. I know personally that The Big Read is effective because it's done more to make me change my not-fiction-reading ways than anything else, even college.
A few years ago I was passing through Philadelphia during their big, city-wide read. It was the non-fiction-disguised-as-fiction What is the What. I gobbled it up. In 2008 Tampa's Big Read was Their Eyes Were Watching God. Not only did I devour that book, too, but it lead me to also get acquainted with the life of one of Florida's great writers.
Tampa's 2010 Big Read is The Joy Luck Club. Catch author Amy Tan on May 1st & 2nd downtown at the library and the Straz Center, respectively. Then check out the library's online calendar for other events at various branches around Hillsborough County, from discussions of the book The Joy Luck Club and viewings of the film to sampling Chinese food and culture, and Tai Chi demonstrations and a lesson in Feng Shui.
(I also just stumbled across The Big Read's blog. Very fun site for bookaholics.)