Now and then, a novel seemingly appears out of nowhere, and its popularity goes viral largely via word-of-mouth among readers.
Then the book becomes a choice of reading groups around the country yes, even in the not-cheap hardback edition hits best-seller lists, becomes even hotter and moves to paperback within a year.
Two classic examples are "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett and "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel, both of which became movies.
Meanwhile, publishing- industry executives shake their heads, admittedly at a loss to spot the next best-seller by a previously unheralded author.
That scenario played out last year with "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain.
"We knew we had something great on our hands, so we did an extensive pre-publication publicity campaign to put it on the radar," said a spokeswoman for the book's publisher, Ballantine. "But connecting with potential readers is always the (unknown factor). Fortunately, they fell in love with it immediately and spread the word."
The novel re-imagines the torrid love affair and turbulent marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Shortly after their wedding in 1921, they moved to Paris and joined other expatriate artists of the legendary Lost Generation.
The Hemingways became the toast of the town in Jazz Age Paris, hanging out with the likes of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But troubles followed them as they became ensnared in the freewheeling, hard- drinking lifestyle of the day.
As Hemingway struggled to write "The Sun Also Rises," his neglected wife reinvented herself out of necessity and self-respect. Their marriage ended tragically in 1926, after Hadley discovered her husband's betrayal.
The New York Times best-selling "The Paris Wife" is the Bee Book Club's choice for February. It has won multiple best-historical-fiction honors and was named one of the year's best books by Kirkus Reviews, BookPage and National Public Radio.
Previously, McLain wrote two collections of poetry, the memoir "Like Family" and a first novel, "A Ticket to Ride." She and her family live in Cleveland.
McLain will appear for the Bee Book Club at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento. Barnes & Noble will be there to sell the trade paperback edition of "The Paris Wife" for 30 percent off the retail price (Ballantine, $15, 352 pages).
Through Feb. 7, these stores will offer a 30 percent discount on the title: Barnes & Noble, Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento, Avid Reader in Davis, Face in a Book in Eldorado Hills, Time Tested Books, Underground Books, Carol's Books, Hornet Bookstore at California State University, Sacramento, the UC Davis Bookstore and the Bookseller in Grass Valley.
For information on the Bee Book Club: (916) 321-1128
Capital Public Radio club
The usual template for a reading group (a.k.a. book club) is this: A group of friends gathers in one of the members' homes (they rotate) or at a restaurant to dine, sip wine and chat about a title all of them have read.
Capital Public Radio's new book club, CapRadio Reads, is expanding that concept. For the club's inaugural event, "Morning Edition" host Donna Apidone will conduct an on-site interview with Robin Sloan, author of one of the hot titles for fall, "Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25, 304 pages).
CPR members and listeners are invited to the event at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 in the radio station's Community Room, 7055 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento. The $10 admission includes appetizers and wine from Renwood Winery. The Avid Reader at Tower will be there to sell copies of the book. CPR members will receive a $5 gift certificate from the bookstore.
CapRadio Reads plans to host a new author every quarter. Next on the list is Davis-based legal-thriller novelist John Lescroart, to appear in May.
The bookclub will also host meetings the second Tuesday of each month. Attendees must register for each meeting.
To register for the Sloan-Apidone event, and for details on CapRadio Reads, go to www.capradio.org/books.
For the coffee table
Looking for a last-minute holiday gift? A coffee-table book could be just the item. Most of the oversized volumes double as room art; certainly, they're conversation-starters. Try this sampling:
"Birds of Paradise" by Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes (National Geographic, $50, 228 pages): A gorgeous photo collection of birds from around the world.
"Flowers" by Carolyne Roehm (Clarkson Potter, $85, 288 pages): This is a dream book for folks who love their flower gardens. Are there really this many colors?
"The Collected Home" by Darryl Carter (Clarkson Potter, $45, 208 pages): Find home-furnishing inspiration from photos and text about "rooms with style, grace and history."
"Wonders of the Deep" by the editors of Life, (Life, $30, 144 pages): Explore the mysteries of the seven seas via astonishing contemporary and historic photos.
"Dinosaur Art," edited by Steve White (Titan, $35, 188 pages): "Paleoartists" take us back in time to witness the creatures that once inhabited the Earth.
"The Onion Book of Known Knowledge" by the editors of the Onion (Little, Brown, $30, 256 pages): This "compendium of all things known" is a hilarious parody of encyclopedia-type tomes, brought to us by the news- satire website, www.theonion.com. Its definition of "mantel," for instance: "Part of a fireplace used to prevent framed photographs and heirlooms from falling into the fire below."
"Elizabeth Taylor" by Cindy De La Hoz (Running Press, $30, 296 pages): This retrospective of a 70-year movie career (with candid shots and behind-the-scenes anecdotes) is both glamorous and tragic. A gold mine for fans.
"Variety" by Tim Gray (Rizzoli, $50, 320 pages): For decades, the show-biz weekly has been the chronicler of not only Hollywood, but of American entertainment culture as well. With a foreword by director Martin Scorsese, great photos, and recollections by Mel Brooks, Geena Davis, Carl Reiner, Betty White and others.
"Great Empires" by Stephen G. Hyslop and Patricia Daniels (National Geographic, $40, 368 pages): This comprehensive illustrated atlas tours readers around the globe and through the centuries, beginning in 2600 B.C., exploring the power bases of the ancient world, the Middle Ages and modern empires. Outstanding art and photos.
Amazon announces ...
Online mega-merchandiser Amazon.com doesn't usually voluntarily release details of its business dealings, so we were surprised to find its announcement of its top 10 best-selling books of 2012 a combination of print and Kindle editions. It also included its top 10-selling books for children and teens.
The top 10
1. "Fifty Shades Freed" by E.L. James
2. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
3. "Fifty Shades Boxed Set" by E.L. James
4. "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day
5. "No Easy Day" by Mark Owen
6. "The Marriage Bargain" by Jennifer Probst
7. "Reflected in You" by Sylvia Day
8. "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
9. "Defending Jacob" by William Landay
10. "The Innocent" by David Baldacci
The top 10 for children and teens
1. "The Mark of Athena" by Rick Riordan
2. "The Third Wheel" by Jeff Kinney
3. "Insurgent" by Veronica Roth
4. "The Serpent's Shadow" by Rick Riordan
5. "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green
6. "City of Lost Souls" by Cassandra Clare
7. "While it Lasts" by Abbi Glines
8. "The Rise of Nine" by Pittacus Lore
9. "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
10. "Nevermore: The Final Maximum Ride Adventure" by James Patterson