DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Meredith Corp., the diversified media company with magazines including Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal, said Tuesday its profit surged 80 percent in the latest quarter, helped by the sale of its book clubs business.

The rise in profits in the second quarter of its fiscal year was in comparison with a depressed period a year earlier, when Meredith profits were reduced sharply by losses from its discontinued cable television operations.

Without the special factors in each quarter, income from operations rose 21 percent in the final three months of 1995 as Meredith's book operations turned a profit for the first time in two years.

Earnings for the quarter rose to $16.1 million, or 57 cents a share, from $8.9 million, or 32 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 7.7 percent to $217.2 million from $201.6 million.

Earnings in the latest quarter included an after-tax gain of $3.4 million, or 12 cents a share, from the December sale of its book clubs.

Cutbacks in book operations were combined with an increase in book sales. The company announced last year that it has contracted with the publishers of Reader's Digest to handle many of the book division's operations.

``This is the first time in eight quarters that our book business has reported an operating profit,'' said Meredith's chairman and chief executive, Jack Rehm. ``The recent steps we've taken to return our book operations to profitability are making a difference.''

Des Moines-based Meredith said operations remained strong at its magazine and television units. Advertising revenue from its magazines were up 8 percent from a year earlier.

``All of our operating groups reported improved quarterly and year-to-date results,'' Rehm said in a statement issued along with the earnings report.

In addition to publishing and broadcasting, Meredith also has interests in real estate.

For the first half of its fiscal year, Meredith said it earned $24.9 million, or 88 cents a share, compared with a loss of $26.6 million, or 96 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier. In the first half of the previous fiscal year, Meredith took a $46.2 million charge for a change in accounting procedures.

Revenue rose 9.2 percent to $424.8 million from $388.9 million.

In afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Meredith was up 62 1/2 cents at $42 a share.