Tomorrow, the National Endowment for the Arts kicks off The Big Read, a month-long initiative meant to encourage book learnin’ nationwide. This year, the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. is encouraging you to pick up F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby and read it with your fellow Washingtonians through the month of May. Planned Gatsby-related activities include a film festival, lectures, and historical walking tours (full schedule here).

Activities surrounding last year’s pick, Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God, drew on Hurston’s tenure at Howard University and her time living in the Shaw neighborhood. But why pick F. Scott, who lived in Minnesota, New York City, Paris, and Hollywood, but didn’t live any closer to the District than Towson?

“The NEA gives us a list of books to choose from,” admits Michon Boston, D.C. Big Read project director. “We have lots of community members who are very avid readers, and so it’s easy to get a little frustrated by the limitations of the list.” This year’s list of 16 novels includesJack London‘s The Call of the Wild, Amy Tan‘s The Joy Luck Club, and Ernest Hemingway‘s A Farewell to Arms (next year: Hemingway urban safaris and extended abortion metaphor walking tours?)

Still, “we try to find ways to make these books relevant to D.C. readers,” says Boston. This year, Big Read activities will focus on Jazz-era Washington, with a walking tour through the Dupont and Kalorama neighborhoods, teatime readings, and 1920s dances.

Photo by Matthew Abadi