There seems to be an insatiable appetite for books that offer glimpses of the afterlife—at least that’s what publishers hope. Fall and winter bring a new crop of titles about journeys to heaven and back and about communicating across the life-death divide, from Christian publishers and those working in the mind/body/spirit category.
The standouts in the past few years—particularly 90 Minutes in Heaven (Baker/Revell), Heaven Is for Real (Thomas Nelson), and Proof of Heaven (Simon & Schuster)—have spent months, even years, on bestsellers lists and sold many millions of copies. Though they’re not without critics (especially among evangelical Christians), these books keep coming because readers keep buying them.
A number of the books on reaching and returning from the afterlife—for example, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven and orthopedic surgeon Mary Neal’s To Heaven and Back—have been written by doctors about phenomena they previously discounted. “Because of the perception that a doctor believes only what can be substantiated, having doctors speak up about their NDEs [near-death experiences] validates what all people want to know—there is something else after we die,” says Johanna Castillo, v-p and executive editor at Atria. In September, Atria will publish Promised by Heaven: A Doctor’s Return from the Afterlife to a Destiny of Love and Healing by physician Mary Helen Hensley, who describes dying in an automobile accident, entering heaven, then deciding to return.
In September, FaithWords, the evangelical Christian division of Hachette, weighs in with Touching Heaven: A Cardiologist’s Encounters with Death and Living Proof of an Afterlife by Chauncey Crandall, with Kris Bearss. Physician Crandall writes that his NDE solidified his faith and reinforced his Christian beliefs.
From the Atria/Beyond Words imprint comes My Life After Death: A Memoir from Heaven by Erik Medhus and his mother, physician Elisa Medhus (Sept.), written after Erik’s reported return from heaven after he committed suicide; the book is a follow-up to Elisa Medhus’s My Son and the Afterlife (2013).
A November title from Rodale, also coauthored by a doctor, offers ways not to see heaven too soon. Health Revelations from Heaven and Earth by Tommy Rosa and Stephen Sinatra tells how Rosa, a Bronx-born plumber, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. He says he saw heaven and returned to life after several weeks in a coma. When he met cardiologist Sinatra, Rosa said that the doctor had an infection in his hip, which confirmed Sinatra’s own suspicions. Rosa’s gift dovetailed with Sinatra’s theories about energy imbalance as the cause of chronic conditions, and the two partnered to write this guide to healthy living.
Medical intuition was also at work in 37 Seconds: Dying Revealed Heaven’s Help—A Mother’s Journey by Stephanie Arnold and Sari Padorr (HarperOne, Sept.).
Arnold’s doctors and family didn’t take seriously her premonition that she would die during the delivery of her second child, but one member of the medical team ordered extra units of blood, which saved her life when she went into cardiac arrest and flatlined for 37 seconds. After two days in a coma, Arnold described witnessing her death and being helped by loving spirits.
Those who touch heaven are changed, according to books such as Peter Baldwin Panagore’s Heaven Is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me That Death Is Just the Beginning (Hampton Roads, Oct.). Panagore, who claimed to see both heaven and hell in an NDE in the Canadian wilderness, went on to earn a degree at Yale Divinity School and now works with the dying and grieving.
In March 2016, Howard Books, the evangelical imprint of S&S, will publish Chasing Heaven by Crystal McVea, a follow-up to her bestselling Waking Up in Heaven, written with Alex Tresniowski (2013). In Chasing Heaven, McVea writes that dying and experiencing nine minutes in heaven motivated her to speak out to encourage others.
Matthew McKay, founder and publisher of New Harbinger Press, tells of finding his murdered son in the spiritual realm in Seeking Jordan: How I Learned the Truth About Death and the Invisible Universe (New World Library, Mar. 2016). The previously skeptical psychologist writes that contact with his dead son opened him to spiritual knowledge and gave him insights about death and the meaning of life.
And finally, there are stories not from after death but before life. In Memories of Heaven by Wayne Dyer and Dee Garnes (Hay House, Dec.), children describe talking to God, helping choose their parents, and knowing long-dead family members, all before being born.