In 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a third and final heart attack, and died believing his work forgotten. His obituary in The New York Times mentioned Gatsby as evidence of great potential that was never reached. However, a strong appreciation for the book had developed in underground circles; future writers Edward Newhouse and Budd Schulberg were deeply affected by it and John O'Hara showed the book's influence. The republication of Gatsby in Edmund Wilson's edition of The Last Tycoon in 1941 produced an outburst of comment, with the general consensus expressing the sentiment that the book was an enduring work of fiction.
In 1942, a group of publishing executives created the Council on Books in Wartime. The Council's purpose was to distribute paperback books to soldiers fighting in the Second World War. The Great Gatsby was one of these books. The books proved to be "as popular as pin-up girls" among the soldiers, according to the Saturday Evening Post 's contemporary report. 155,000 copies of Gatsby were distributed to soldiers overseas, and it is believed that this publicity ultimately boosted the novel's popularity and sales.
By 1944, full-length articles on Fitzgerald's works were being published, and the following year, "the opinion that Gatsby was merely a period piece had almost entirely disappeared." This revival was paved by interest shown by literary critic Edmund Wilson, who was Fitzgerald's friend. In 1951, Arthur Mizener published The Far Side of Paradise, a biography of Fitzgerald. He emphasized The Great Gatsby 's positive reception by literary critics, which may have influenced public opinion and renewed interest in it.
By 1960, the book was steadily selling 50,000 copies per year, and renewed interest led The New York Times editorialist Arthur Mizener to proclaim the novel "a classic of twentieth-century American fiction". The Great Gatsby has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, annually sells an additional 500,000 copies, and is Scribner's most popular title; in 2013, the e-book alone sold 185,000 copies.
In 2013, cultural historian, Bob Batchelor, authored Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel, in which he explored the enduring influence of the book by tracing it "from the book's publication in 1925 through today's headlines filled with celebrity intrigue, corporate greed, and a roller-coaster economy".
Scribner's copyright is scheduled to expire in 2020, according to Maureen Corrigan's book about the making of The Great Gatsby, So We Read On.