The best books for convincing you there is probably an afterlife

Maryanne O'Hara Author Of Little Matches: A Memoir of Finding Light in the Dark
By Maryanne O'Hara

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning author of fiction that always explored existential questions but in a ruminating sort of way. After the loss of my only child, I turned to memoir and wrote Little Matches: A Memoir of Finding Light in the Dark, to tell the story of my search for satisfying answers to the big life questions. I spent months reading the philosophers and visiting people who claimed psi abilities. I sought out books on the paranormal written by critical thinkers, books by people who possessed real-world credentials, and/or had been tested and certified by groups I respected. They opened the door to a fascinating world of ideas and beliefs.


I wrote...

Little Matches: A Memoir of Finding Light in the Dark

By Maryanne O'Hara,

Book cover of Little Matches: A Memoir of Finding Light in the Dark

What is my book about?

After losing my only child, I looked for answers to the big life questions. Where is she? Is she? Is there more to life than this life? Does consciousness survive death? Does my existence serve any real purpose? Does anyone's? 

Little Matches is my recounting of my search and the surprising, affirming answers I discovered.

The books I picked & why

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Many Lives, Many Masters

By Brian L. Weiss,

Book cover of Many Lives, Many Masters

Why this book?

I grew up thinking that an afterlife was a pretty enough idea, but I was an agnostic who leaned toward skepticism. This book only caught my attention because the author had real-world credentials. Brian Weiss is a psychiatrist, an MD and PhD with degrees from Columbia and Yale, and the former head of psychiatry at Miami’s Mount Sinai, who arrived very reluctantly and unexpectedly to a practice of past life regression. I found his book intelligent and compelling, and there’s one detail that’s simply astounding –– If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about! If he’s genuine, and I think he is, his message is kind of irrefutable: that we are essentially souls who live many lifetimes.


Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe

By Laura Lynne Jackson,

Book cover of Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe

Why this book?

Laura Lynne Jackson is a blind-tested, certified, respected medium who has had her brain mapped while performing readings and who often donates her services to the bereaved. She seems to me to be as genuine as a medium can be proven to be. Signs is a collection of page-turning stories from her readings archive, and they are entertaining to read, yes, but she has a bigger message: we can all do this. We can all develop our intuition and communicate with our departed loved ones. She showed me that it’s true. Now, instead of calling all the signs and meaningful synchronicities I receive, over and over, “just coincidences,” I accept them as gifts from the universe. 


Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife

By Leslie Kean,

Book cover of Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife

Why this book?

A science teacher who knew that my interest in enduring consciousness was tempered with skepticism recommended I read this book after I lost Caitlin. The author is an investigative journalist, and her essays are dense with in-depth, picked-apart examinations of claims of paranormal phenomena. A good chunk of its pages are devoted to over 400 end-notes. Leslie Kean is a smart and down-to-earth narrator, equipped with an objective yet curious sensibility, and I found Surviving Death to be an addicting read that spoke to my skepticism.


Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

By Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley,

Book cover of Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

Why this book?

Nurses who tend to the dying will tell you that end-of-life dreams and visions are part of the natural dying experience. The authors are hospice nurses who witnessed the over-and-over repeating patterns of a process that now has a name: Nearing Death Awareness. Our culture doesn’t like to talk about dying, and end-of-life behavior is an unknown. The authors show that NDA can be comforting: The lucid dad who says, “My mother’s here!” But NDA behavior can sometimes be alarming, too – I discovered this to be true when my own mom was dying – and the great thing about this book is that it’s a practical handbook for all of us who don’t know what to expect when death comes. Final Gifts illuminates, educates, and ultimately comforts. 


After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond

By Bruce Greyson, MD,

Book cover of After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond

Why this book?

The author, because of some eye-popping experiences early in his medical career, found himself compelled to question his orthodox assumptions and attempt to document, as scientifically as possible, the near-death events he witnessed. I really related to his descriptions of himself as a young physician who downplayed his research and professed more skepticism than he actually felt because he was terrified of ruining his career. “Studying things that fit our preconceived ideas helps us understand their fine points better,” he writes. “But studying things that don’t fit our preconceived ideas is what often drives breakthroughs in science.” This book offers provocative insights and a kind of comfort this mother was happy to discover.


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