Recent publishing history is replete with books that elevate heaven on the bestseller lists. 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper (Revell, 2005) was one of the first, with more than 5 million copies sold in all editions. Todd Burpo’s Heaven Is For Real (Thomas Nelson, 2010) followed, and has almost 6 million copies in print and more than a million e-books sold. WaterBrook Multnomah has scored big with Mary Neal’s To Heaven and Back; there are more than half a million copies in print since its May release.
Now publishers are as eager to offer new books about heaven as readers are to grab them. Vicki Crumpton, executive editor for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, has seen a lot of heaven books come through, but only one, My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life by Marv Besteman, had the chops to follow 90 Minutes.
“Marv’s story had a strength about it, had that wisdom of an older voice,” says Crumpton. “We were all so moved by Marv’s account of what he saw in heaven, the detail, richness, and colors.”
Besteman, who wrote the book with Lorilee Craker, died before seeing the book in print. The topic of heaven, Crumpton says, is perennial because readers are always interested in what’s coming after death, how they can be ready, and how they should live today.
Billy Graham offers hope to readers with The Heaven Answer Book (Thomas Nelson, Apr.), a collection of Graham’s writings on the topic over the years. He answers questions such as “Does heaven really exist?” and “What will we do in heaven?” in this gift-format book.
After You Die: Unveiling the Mysteries of Heaven by Frank Santora (Howard Books, Sept.) is a primer on death, the afterlife, and God’s part in it. Santora, pastor of Faith Church in Connecticut, offers truths based on cultural, scientific, philosophical, and biblical evidence.
Academic heavyweights and non-religious publishers are weighing in on the topic as well. Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander discounted near-death experiences until he had one of his own. Now he explores his experience in Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife(Simon & Schuster, Oct.).
Julia Assante, a scholar of the ancient Near East and self-described “highly gifted intuitive,” enters the fray with The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death (New World Library, Nov.). She brings together facts from numerous fields of research, records from counselors and medical personnel, and anecdotal communications with the dead to create a critical exploration of the life that follows death.
Cecil Murphey, co-writer with Don Piper of 90 Minutes in Heaven, once again delves into the subject with I Believe in Heaven: Real Stories from the Bible, History, and Today (Regal Books, May 2013). The book includes biblical teaching and stories from those who believe they have died and gone to heaven, those who have had near-death experiences, and those who have seen the dying talk of angels and other visitors.
“I’m excited about the book because I get to write about the theological side of heaven,” says Murphey, author or coauthor of more than 130 books.
For Stan Jantz, director of publishing for Regal Books, I Believe in Heaven offers a fresh approach to a timeless topic. “This book is different because others have usually been one person’s story about heaven; we’re offering Cec’s teaching on the topic of heaven, historical perspective, and current accounts of heaven.”