The best books on Heaven, Hell, & the Afterlife

Who am I?

I’ve always been intrigued by concepts of what happens after death, ignited by my religious schooling and fueled by afterlife stories from The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Tales from the Crypt, and similar works of fiction. In college I began studying interpretations of Heaven and Hell from literature, art, myth, music, and pop culture, and continued to pursue the topic in my early career. This fascination led to my first books, Encyclopedia of Hell and Encyclopedia of Heaven, and has inspired many of my other works. I continue to do research in the field of comparative afterlife theory, and never miss a chance to interview those with expertise in supernatural matters. 


I wrote...

Bandun Gate

By Miriam Van Scott,

Book cover of Bandun Gate

What is my book about?

The fact inspired novel Bandun Gate features graphic depictions of Hell, demons and diabolic creatures. In telling the story of an executed murderess determined to rise again ‘wearing’ the body of a targeted woman, Bandun Gate incorporates firsthand accounts from actual exorcists, liberated cult members, Gullah root doctors, and other paranormal practitioners. The result is a horror story set along the shores of Charleston, South Carolina that stretches into the very depths of the great abyss. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Great Divorce

Miriam Van Scott Why did I love this book?

The Great Divorce is part allegory, part fantasy, part self-help, part cautionary tale as readers tag along on a bus ride from Hell to Heaven. Through the course of the journey, Lewis uses a fascinating variety of unique characters and strange situations to illustrate how individual perspective and personal choices determine how happy (or miserable) we humans are in this life, as well as what we can expect in the next. 

By C. S. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Great Divorce as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis’s revolutionary idea in the The Great Divorce is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis’ The Great Divorce will change the way we think about good and evil. 


Book cover of The Hellbound Heart

Miriam Van Scott Why did I love this book?

Barker’s beautifully written Hellbound Heart reads like a fairy tale gone horribly, horribly wrong. The story (source material for the Hellraiser films) follows nihilist Frank as he chases bigger and bigger highs of sensual pleasure and depravity. His search leads to a mysterious puzzle box that, when opened, promises the ultimate in sensory gratification. What happens next is a masterclass in ‘be careful what you wish for.’ (Full disclosure: The Hellbound Heart’s author Clive Barker graciously helped launch my career 25 years ago, assisting with my first book and I am forever grateful!) 

By Clive Barker,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Hellbound Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic tale of supernatural obsession from the critically acclaimed master of darkness—and the inspiration for the cult classic film Hellraiser

From his scores of short stories, bestselling novels, and major motion pictures, no one comes close to the vivid imagination and unique terrors provided by Clive Barker. The Hellbound Heart is one of Barker’s best—a nerve-shattering novella about the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within its endless domain. It is about greed and love, desire and death, life and captivity, bells and blood. It is one of the most frightening stories you are likely to…


Book cover of The Divine Comedy

Miriam Van Scott Why did I love this book?

The Divine Comedy is an oldie but a goodie that covers the entire gamut of afterlife possibilities in Christian tradition. Written in 1320, the three-layered tale is still studied to this day and continues to inspire new creative endeavors. The "Inferno" section gets—by far—the most attention, with its map of the Circles of Hell and extensive descriptions of the torments meted out therein. But don’t skip "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso," which also feature Dante’s lovely prosaic style along with insights into human nature and the role of free will in our lives and afterlives.  

By Dante Alighieri, C.H. Sisson (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Divine Comedy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Described variously as the greatest poem of the European Middle Ages and, because of the author's evangelical purpose, the `fifth Gospel', the Divine Comedy is central to the culture of the west. The poem is a spiritual autobiography in the form of a journey - the poet travels from the dark circles of the Inferno, up the mountain of Purgatory, where Virgil, his guide leaves him to encounter Beatrice in the Earthly Paradise. Dante conceived the poem as the
new epic of Christendom, and he creates a world in which reason and faith have transformed moral and social chaos into…


Book cover of The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Bardo Thödol: Secrets of Life, Death, and Rebirth

Miriam Van Scott Why did I love this book?

For insights into non-western afterlife theory, the Bardo Thodol offers a collection of texts covering aspects of death, reincarnation, and the ‘space’ in between. The work, which dates back to the 8th century, serves as a ‘guidebook’ on preparing the soul for its continuing journey, including advice on meditation, the six states of consciousness, death rituals, and the pursuit of karma. Over the centuries the Bardo Thodol has inspired numerous interpretations as well as literary works. Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who spent time secluded in a Buddhist monastery, describes his film Jacob’s Ladder as a modern take on the ancient text. 

By Tibetan Yoga Academy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tibetan Book of the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unravel the Secrets of Life, Death, and Rebirth with the Tibetan Book of the Dead!

Have you always been intrigued by rebirth, death, and the afterlife?

Immerse in a whole new dimension and explore life and death from a completely different perspective with this book!

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, also known as Bardo Thödol, is originally a funerary text recited to ease the consciousness of a recently deceased person through death and assist it into a favorable rebirth.

The idea of death, rebirth and the afterlife has been intriguing the human mind almost since the dawn of time.…


Book cover of Hideaway

Miriam Van Scott Why did I love this book?

Hideaway explores the question: what would happen if people who’ve had near-death experiences bring something back with them from the other side? Koontz offers two characters resuscitated after being clinically dead for more than half an hour, one who tastes Heaven while the other sees Hell. Is the carnage that follows the result of their angel/demon hitchhikers wreaking havoc among the living, or is something else at play? The novel offers unique perspective on the desire to return to the land of the dead, and how closely the forces of Heaven and Hell are linked to the realm of the living. 

By Dean Koontz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hideaway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Strange visions plague a man after he survives a near-death experience in this chilling thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz.

Surviving a car accident on a snowy mountain road is miraculous for Lindsey Harrison, but even more so for her husband, Hatch, who was clinically dead for eighty minutes.

After experimental procedures bring Hatch back to life, he awakens with the terrifying feeling that something is it out there. But it soon becomes apparent that the evil stalking Hatch is within him-a dark force of murderous rage that hides within us all...


You might also like...

Aggressor

By F.X. Holden,

Book cover of Aggressor

F.X. Holden

New book alert!

What is my book about?

It is April 1st, 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan. The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region. But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

Aggressor is the first novel in a gripping action series about a future war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that are on the drawing board today and could be fielded in the near future, Aggressor is the page-turning military technothriller you have been waiting for!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in hell, the afterlife, and heaven?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about hell, the afterlife, and heaven.

Hell Explore 69 books about hell
The Afterlife Explore 91 books about the afterlife
Heaven Explore 18 books about heaven