Fans of Wm. Paul Young‘s The Shack know that books can change your outlook on life — and death. If you were moved by the powerful story of The Shack, we have collected a list of books about life and death that readers have connected with in transformative ways. Check out our suggestions below, along with their publishers’ descriptions.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret.
Then, on his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.
One by one, Eddie’s five people illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is as inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom gives us an astoundingly original story that will change everything you’ve ever thought about the afterlife — and the meaning of our lives here on earth. With a timeless tale, appealing to all, this is a book that readers of fine fiction, and those who loved Tuesdays with Morrie, will treasure.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Once in a generation a novel comes along that taps a vein of universal human experience, resonating with readers of all ages. The Lovely Bones is such a book – a phenomenal #1 bestseller celebrated at once for its narrative artistry, its luminous clarity of emotion, and its astoniishing power to lay claim to the hearts of millions of readers around the world.
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”
So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on eath continue without her – her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.
Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.
To Dance with the White Dog by Terry Kay
On the 25th anniversary of its first publication, here is the definitive edition of the book Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “a hauntingly beautiful story about love, family, and relationships,” now with a new preface from the author.
Sam Peek’s beloved wife of 57 years, Cora, has died. His children are anxious. No one knows how Sam will survive. How can this elderly man live alone? How can he run a farm? How can he keep driving his dilapidated truck down to the fields where he cares for a few rows of pecan trees? When Sam begins telling his children about a dog that is white as a fresh-fallen snow but who is invisible to everyone else, well, his children are sure that grief and old age have finally overcome their father.
But whether the dog is real or not, Sam Peek, “one of the smartest men in the South when it comes to trees,” outsmarts everyone. Sam and the White Dog dance from the pages of this bittersweet novel and straight into the reader’s heart as the two share the mystery of life and begin together a warm and moving final rite of passage as life draws to a close.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist — books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Critically acclaimed when it was first published, Tuck Everlasting has become a much-loved, well-studied modern-day classic.
Doomed to ― or blessed with ― eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When 10-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
Elsewhere is where 15-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
Can we save ourselves, or do we rely on others to do it? Is what we believe always the truth?
One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.
For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June’s 11-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.
Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy’s dying wish?
Once again, Jodi Picoult mesmerizes and enthralls readers with this story of redemption, justice, and love.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year. In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. The Alchemist is such a book. With over a million and a half copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has already established itself as a modern classic, universally admired. Paulo Coelho’s charming fable, now available in English for the first time, will enchant and inspire an even wider audience of readers for generations to come.
The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.
The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.
The Dreamseller by Augusto Cury
Wherever he goes, the dreamseller enchants, stirs up trouble and inspires his listeners to search for the most important thing: the heart of the human soul. Every person he meets is someone who has abandoned their dreams and is struggling through life: a professor who has stopped pursuing his passions, an alcoholic who has no family, the elderly who have lost their zest for life. Through his questioning and wisdom, the dreamseller helps them to look into their silent hearts and get to the root of their unhappiness.
The Dreamseller is moving, entertaining and ultimately inspiring. This book will make you laugh and cry, but above all, it will make you reflect on the purpose of your life, value others and become empowered to believe in your dreams.
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
You have never read a book like this before — a book that comes along once in a lifetime to change lives forever.
In the rain forests of Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered. Within its pages are 9 key insights into life itself — insights each human being is predicted to grasp sequentially; one insight, then another, as we move toward a completely spiritual culture on Earth. Drawing on ancient wisdom, it tells you how to make connections among the events happening in your life right now and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimism as you head into tomorrow.
The Twelfth Angel by Og Mandino
John Harding had a high-powered career, a loving wife, and a beautiful son. He’s lost it all and has returned to his home town of Boland, New Hampshire, teetering on the brink of suicide. But an old friend asks John to manage his old Little League team, the Angels. Reluctantly, he agrees, and meets a hopeless player who bears a striking resemblance to his dead son — and through their extraordinary relationship, John finds the wisdom in living that he thought had slipped beyond his grasp forever…
Three Souls by Janie Chang
We have three souls, or so I’d been told. But only in death could I confirm this…
So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls — stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun — who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.
As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.
When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth — that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.
Suffused with history and literature, Three Souls is an epic tale of revenge and betrayal, forbidden love, and the price we are willing to pay for freedom.
Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
San Francisco art patron Bibi Chen has planned a journey of the senses along the famed Burma Road for eleven lucky friends. But after her mysterious death, Bibi watches aghast from her ghostly perch as the travelers veer off her itinerary and embark on a trail paved with cultural gaffes and tribal curses, Buddhist illusions and romantic desires. On Christmas morning, the tourists cruise across a misty lake and disappear.
With picaresque characters and mesmerizing imagery, Saving Fish from Drowning gives us a voice as idiosyncratic, sharp, and affectionate as the mothers of The Joy Luck Club. Bibi is the observant eye of human nature — the witness of good intentions and bad outcomes, of desperate souls and those who wish to save them. In the end, Tan takes her readers to that place in their own heart where hope is found.
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
he Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.
Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.
Luminous, soulful, and filled with unforgettable characters, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is one of those rare, wise books that reveal the mysteries of the unseen world around us, gently transforming the worst pain of loss into hope, healing, and even laughter. Suspenseful and deeply moving, its startling climax reminds us that sometimes tragedies can bring about miracles if we simply open our hearts.
What books do you want to read? Share in the comments!
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