What happened
Christian novel The Shack, written by first-time author William P. Young and privately published by two former pastors, has surprised many critics by taking the No. 1 spot on the New York Times paperback fiction best-seller list.

What the commentators said
This is “the most compelling recent example of how a word-of-mouth phenomenon can explode into a blockbuster,” said Motoko Rich in The New York Times. Praise for The Shack “ripped through the Christian blogosphere, talk radio and pulpits across the country,” and now its publisher “estimates that the book has sold more than one million copies” so far.

“There are many stories of Christian-themed books that enjoy massive sales fueled by strong church and community networks,” said Sarah Britten in the Times blog A Little Britten. It’s the same kind of “word of mouth that drove the impressive box office receipts for Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.” It just goes to show how the “acknowledged experts” in the publishing field don’t “always have a handle on what the market will respond to.”

Secular publishers weren't the only ones to reject The Shack, said Dan Kois and Lane Brown in the New York magazine blog Vulture, Christian publishers did too because they thought it was “a little too free and easy with its religion.” Who would have guessed that a book “about a guy whose daughter was killed by a serial killer, who then talks to God in the form of a jolly black woman,” would do so well?