So, what are we looking at here? No, it’s not a heart-beat—or maybe it is, in a way, come to think of it. What we’re looking at is the Google search trend for the phrase “The Great Gatsby.” This doesn’t reflect the raw number of searches, but rather a relative scale where 100 represents peak search activity and everything else is relative to that peak. I’m amazed, looking at this chart, that it’s so perfectly seasonal: low-points in June, July and August, and high points in March, April, May. Summer vacation and end-of-year exams, obviously.
I imagine any book regularly taught in highschools will follow the same kind of cyclical pattern. Here’s “Catcher in the Rye:”
Here’s “Romeo and Juliet:”
And here’s “Huckleberry Finn:”
What is the take-away from all of this? Well, some books are taught earlier in the year than others, based on their peak months, and we seem to be teaching less of them than we used to. And most importantly, if you want a big spike for your book you basically have two choices: sell the rights to Hollywood (Gatsby), or die (Salinger).