The mysteries of the afterlife continue to fascinate readers eager to know how they or their loved ones might fare after death, and publishers are just as eager to help them answer these age-old questions. “People are looking for proof that their loved ones are still around,” says Amy Glaser, acquisitions editor at Llewellyn, publisher since 1901 of books for mind, body, and spirit. “They are clinging to the belief that heaven exists and that their loved one is there. People want comfort and assurance.”
In March, Llewellyn will release Evidence of Eternity: Communicating with Spirits for Proof of the Afterlife, by Mark Anthony, and, in April, Three Journeys to Heaven: The True Stories of My Near Death Experiences by Marilou Trask-Curtin, who finally succumbed in February. Kristy Robinett’s third book, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife: Inspiring True Stories from a Psychic Medium, will be released in August.
Many other publishers also believe that readers want these books, a desire confirmed by the success of titles like Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, 2012), which spent more than 90 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and more than 50 on the PW trade nonfiction list. Spring releases include After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go? (Avery, Apr.), by Claire Bidwell Smith, and The Hand on the Mirror: A True Story of Life Beyond Death (Grand Central, Apr.), by Janis Heaphy Durham (see profile, p. 41). In early 2016 HarperOne will follow Jeffrey Long’s popular Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (2011) with God and the Afterlife: The Groundbreaking New Evidence of Near-Death Experience, by Long and coauthor Paul Perry.
Evangelical Christian publishers have had megasellers with accounts of what skeptics are calling “heaven tourism.” Chief among them are 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life (Revell, 2004), by Don Piper, which has spent over five years on the Times list and sold more than seven million copies, and Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Thomas Nelson, 2010), by Todd Burpo, with 212 weeks on the Times list and more than 10 million sold. Both remain popular, even after now-16-year-old Alex Malarkey recanted the experiences he detailed with his father, Kevin, in 2010’s The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World, which was taken out of print by Tyndale in January.
Nelson Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, has The Hope of Heaven: God’s Eight Messages of Assurance to a Grieving Father (Mar.), by Alan M. Hallene Jr. Hallene writes that God gave him eight visions of heaven during the 10 minutes he spent waiting for the authorities after finding the dead body of his young son, who hanged himself.
“He believes that what most people long for is assurance about what awaits them and their loved ones after death,” says Brian Hampton, senior v-p and publisher. “Hallene’s book is so grounded in the reality of pain and sorrow in our lives that it makes the eight assurances he offers all the more powerful.”
Tyndale continues to publish on the topic of the afterlife. David Jeremiah offers his Bible-based Answers to Your Questions About Heaven (Feb.). In Visits to Heaven and Back: Are They Real? (Mar.), Mark Hitchcock takes on claims of experiencing heaven firsthand, including those in recent bestsellers.
In November, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, will publish Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future that Awaits You, by John Burke. Burke examines accounts of near-death experiences from people of different ethnicities, genders, countries, and core religious beliefs, finding remarkable similarities across cultures.
Academic books abound as well. Harvard University Press will release Peter Brown’s The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity in April; Baker division Brazos has published Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most (Feb.), by Jerry L. Walls; and Jewish Lights has released a second edition of Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz’s Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose (Feb.). Oxford University Press has weighed in with Greg Garrett’s Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination (Jan.).
“Believers will always want to understand more about our hope of heaven,” says Hampton of Nelson Books. “We want to publish unique books that convey a biblically sound message about such topics.”
Additional books on the topic include Love Never Dies: How to Reconnect and Make Peace with the Deceased (Hay House, 2014), by Jamie Turndorf; Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing (Hachette, Apr.), by Christy Wilson Beam; Touched by Heaven: Inspiring True Stories of One Woman’s Lifelong Encounters with Jesus (Chosen, Mar.), by Nancy Ravenhill; and The Hard Road: What if Almost Dying Was the Very Thing That Saved Your Life? (Red Arrow Media, Apr.), by Michael S. Pruett.