Heaven can't wait 

Mitch Albom must be in heaven. His last book, Tuesdays with Morrie, spent an astonishing four years on the New York Times best seller list. And his latest, The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Hyperion), shot to No. 1 on the same list almost immediately after its release in September.

The books share other similarities: Both feature elderly men who look back over their lives; both are written in spare conversational language; and both sling out more aphorisms on living than a week's worth of "Oprah."

The fictional Heaven makes for a fitting follow-up to Tuesdays, a nonfiction account of the final days of Albom's mentor. In Heaven, amusement park maintenance man Eddie dies on his 83rd birthday while saving a child from a faulty ride. His journey through the afterlife takes on a Ghost of Christmas Past flavor, with Eddie meeting five seemingly random people from his past who guide him through a tour of his life and explain their significance.

Albom's central thesis -- that everything happens for a reason and all people are ultimately connected -- comes off as more than a bit cliche, and some stretches read like an overly long greeting card. But The Five People You Meet in Heaven keeps the reader engaged with its fast and palatable vision of the hereafter. Both of Albom's books, though ostensibly concerned with death, offer affirming messages about coping with the realities of life. No wonder the author is enjoying such heavenly rewards here on earth.

Mitch Albom appears Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival. Other highlights of the fest:

Joel Siegel, "Good Morning America's" entertainment critic appears to promote his book Lessons from Dylan: From Father to Son Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.

A. Scott Berg, author of the blockbuster Katharine Hepburn biography Kate Remembered, appears Nov. 8 at 8 p.m.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright appears to promote her new book, Madame Secretary: A Memoir, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

All events take place at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. $10-$20. 770-396-3250, ext. 345. www.atlantajcc.org.

Shelf Space is a weekly column on books and Atlanta's literary scene.

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