Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

W/Thomas Nelson, 163 pp., $16.99 (paper)

Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon—Survival of Bodily Death

by Raymond A. Moody Jr., with a preface by Melvin Morse and a foreword by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

HarperOne, 175 pp., $14.99 (paper)

Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife

by Raymond Moody and Paul Perry

HarperOne, 256 pp., $15.99 (paper)

On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Families

by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Scribner, 304 pp., $16.00 (paper)

On Life After Death

by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, with a foreword by Caroline Myss

Celestial Arts, 85 pp., $11.99 (paper)

Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences

by Jeffrey Long with Paul Perry

HarperOne, 215 pp., $14.99 (paper)

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

by Carl Jung, edited by Aniela Jaffé and translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston

Vintage, 430 pp., $16.95 (paper)

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife

by Eben Alexander

Simon and Schuster, 226 pp., $24.99

A Vision from Heaven (The Risen Christ)

by Mary Stephens Landoll

AuthorHouse, 56 pp., $11.95 (paper)

Revealing Heaven: An Eyewitness Account

by Kat Kerr, with a foreword by Scribe Angels and illustrations by Walter Reynolds

Xulon, 164 pp., $14.99

90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life

by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey

Revell, 245 pp., $14.99 (paper)

Waking Up in Heaven: A True Story of Brokenness, Heaven, and Life Again

by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski, with a foreword by Laura Schroff

Howard, 245 pp., $15.99 (paper)

Embraced by the Light

by Betty J. Eadie with Curtis Taylor

Bantam, 188 pp., $14.00 (paper)

I Knew Their Hearts

by Jeff Olsen

Plain Sight, 108 pp., $12.99 (paper)

Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates: A Book of Hope for Those Who Have Lost a Pet

by Gary Kurz

Citadel, 272 pp., $12.95 (paper)

Wagging Tails in Heaven: The Gift of Our Pets' Everlasting Love

by Gary Kurz

Citadel, 240 pp., $12.95 (paper)

Furry Friends Forevermore: A Heavenly Reunion with Your Pet

by Gary Kurz

Citadel, 240 pp., $12.95

Sony Pictures

Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and Connor Corum as his son Colton in Heaven Is for Real, the film adaptation of Burpo's memoir about his son's near-death experience

I've never had a near-death experience and don't know anyone who has, but according to a poll that's quoted throughout the NDE literature, at least 5 percent of Americans have returned from one and told the tale. That may be a small percentage, but it's a lot of people—given today's population, over 15,000,000. Other estimates are lower, but they're still huge. And most of these people seem to be writing books.

The current front-runner is the omnipresent Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo "with" Lynn Vincent—and don't underestimate that "with": Lynn Vincent has been, among other things, the ghostwriter for Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, and she knows what she's doing. (I imagine that after dealing with Palin, dealing with Colton Burpo—who, before he turned four, almost died of a ruptured appendix, went to heaven, and came back with a detailed report—must have been a piece of cake.) Actually, she's not little Colton's collaborator, she's his dad's: it's Todd, Colton's father, who tells the story.

Todd Burpo is the pastor of the Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska, population approximately two thousand. He also owns a company that installs garage doors, and is a wrestling coach for junior high and high school students and a volunteer with the Imperial fire department. His wife, Sonja, works as an office manager, has a master's in library and information science, and is a certified teacher. When Colton, their second child, suffers his burst appendix—his condition had been misdiagnosed—the family undergoes an agonizing period of suspense during the time he's close to death before making a full recovery. Lynn Vincent jerks every tear in recounting this frightening story—"Daddy! Don't let them take meeee!"—but has room for touches of humor, too. At a crucial moment: "That night might be the only time in recorded history that eighty people [Todd's parishioners] gathered and prayed for someone to pass gas!" ("Within an hour, the...prayer was answered!")

Colton's remarkable story is really two stories. One is his account of what he sees when, under anesthesia, he looks down from the hospital room ceiling and observes the doctors working on his body, his Mommy praying and talking on the telephone in one room, and his Daddy praying in another. When, days later, he casually mentions this to his father, "Colton's words rocked me to the core.... How could he have known?" Actually, this kind of out-of-body experience—in which the presumably unconscious person still has the faculties of sight, hearing, and memory—turns out to be a fairly common phenomenon.

The other story is what Colton experienced in heaven while he was being operated on ...

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