The best books where life is complicated—but so is the afterlife

Kimberly Sabatini Author Of Touching the Surface
By Kimberly Sabatini

Who am I?

My father passed away in early 2005, but it wasn’t until after I finished drafting Touching the Surface, that I became consciously aware of how my writing was deeply connected to the thoughts I had about losing my Dad. The realization only added to my fascination with stories about the afterlife. Simultaneously it also expanded my intrigue with the themes of bad things happening to good people and life-altering mistakes being meant to alter lives. The more I explored the stories I loved and dug deeper into my own writing, the more I realized these themes overlapped like carefully folded origami. Complicated choices are intriguing.


I wrote...

Touching the Surface

By Kimberly Sabatini,

Book cover of Touching the Surface

What is my book about?

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she can't remember her past, is getting the cold shoulder from her best friend, and has no idea why she keeps repeating the same mistakes from her previous lives. What she does know is this is her last chance to get things right.

She will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of the people she’s hurt, people she's betrayed…and the person she’s killed. As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her previous lives, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most and reveal the truth about herself to her best friend and the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them forever.

The books I picked & why

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Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver,

Book cover of Before I Fall

Why this book?

Before I Fall is the story off a mean girl forced to examine who she is and how she walks through the world. Samantha gets to relive the last day of her life—seven times—giving her a chance to discover who she really is. I love this story because Sam is an unlikeable protagonist done right. You cringe as you first come in contact with her, but by examining this one girl, you are reminded that we all have pieces of ourselves we might not want to see under a spotlight. Reading this novel, makes me aware that we all have depth and complexity within us. Each of us has insecurities, shining moments and most importantly—an endless potential for growth.   

“It was never about saving my life. Not, at least, in the way that I thought.”

Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Before I Fall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bestselling summer read as heartbreaking as The Lovely Bones and as gripping as Jenny Downham's Before I Die.

**Now a major Netflix movie starring Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley*

'Gossip Girl meets Groundhog Day' Grazia

'Tender, funny and raw' Marie Claire

'A clever, funny, insightful and utterly addictive novel' Daily Mail

'Compelling and poignant, a truly memorable read' Closer

They say 'live every day as if it's your last' - but you never actually think it's going to be. At least I didn't.
The thing is, you don't get to know when it happens. You don't…


Resurrecting Sunshine

By Lisa A. Koosis,

Book cover of Resurrecting Sunshine

Why this book?

Resurrecting Sunshine takes my fascination with the afterlife and combines it with my love of contemporary sci-fi. Sunshine was Adam’s best friend, girlfriend and bandmate until the day she swam out too far into the ocean. Now she’s gone. Or she was, until advanced underground cloning and memory-implantation techniques revive her. As Adam’s memories are retrieved and donated to a resurrected Sunshine, the question is…will she be the same girl as the one that lives in his memory? I love the questions this story raises about death and the complications that might arise as our science evolves. When should we stay and when should we leave when we have a choice?

“They can bring her back. But can they save her?”

Resurrecting Sunshine

By Lisa A. Koosis,

Why should I read it?

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


Belzhar

By Meg Wolitzer,

Book cover of Belzhar

Why this book?

Fifteen-year-old Jam’s boyfriend has died, and she’s been sent to the Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school. Assigned to a selective class called Special Topics in English, Jam and the other struggling students discover that a journal-writing assignment transports them to a place where past trauma seems to be undone and the dead are returned to the ones they love. But as Jam spends more and more time in a static version of her boyfriend’s afterlife, she must figure out if she should hold on to what she once had or reach for something else. Belzhar is twisty tale of magical realism that I will never stop thinking about.

“Everyone has something to say. But not everyone can bear to say it. Your job is to find a way.” 

Belzhar

By Meg Wolitzer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Expect depth and razor sharp wit in this YA novel from the author of The Interestings." - Entertainment Weekly

"A prep school tale with a supernatural-romance touch, from genius adult novelist Meg Wolitzer." -Glamour

"Basically everything Meg Wolitzer writes is worth reading, usually over and over again, and her YA debut . . . is no exception." -TeenVogue.com

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She'd be watching old comedy sketches with him. She'd be kissing him in the library stacks. She certainly wouldn't be at…

If I Stay

By Gayle Forman,

Book cover of If I Stay

Why this book?

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, observing her broken body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces—to figure out what she’s lost and what she has left. If I Stay carefully walks the line on being an afterlife story because Mia is suspended--caught between life and death. But we’re suspended too, waiting for her to decide. I love books with tough choices, stories where there are no right or wrong answers, just decisions. This one is perfectly imperfect.

“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

If I Stay

By Gayle Forman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked If I Stay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, Just One Year, and I Was Here.

Now a major motion picture, starring Chloe Grace Moretz! Includes exclusive interviews with Chloe Grace Moretz and her co-star Jamie Blackley.

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 Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold,

Book cover of The Lovely Bones

Why this book?

The Lovely Bones was my inaugural afterlife book and it hooked me. This story differs a bit from the others. Even though it has a teen protagonist, it is an adult novel about the murder of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon. As we dig into her story, she’s adjusting to her new home in the afterlife, a place that is not what she expected. While exploring, Susie watches her family, friends and even her killer continue living. Despite the darkness and suspense in this tale, it is also full of hope, humor, and even joy.

When the dead are done with the living, the living can go on to other things," Franny said. "What about the dead?" I asked. "Where do we go?” 

The Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Lovely Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally bestselling novel that inspired the acclaimed film directed by Peter Jackson.

With an introduction by Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles.

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

In heaven, Susie Salmon can have whatever she wishes for - except what she most wants, which is to be back with the people she loved on earth. In the wake of her murder, Susie watches as her happy suburban family is torn apart by grief; as her friends grow up, fall in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in life satisfaction, murder, and criminal investigations?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about life satisfaction, murder, and criminal investigations.

Life Satisfaction Explore 128 books about life satisfaction
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Sing, Unburied, Sing, Eleanor & Park, and To Kill a Mockingbird if you like this list.