Burning Books: The Hottest Scenes in Literature

No, not like that. We’re talking about actual, blazing, burning heat, which shouldn’t be that surprising, because if you’ve been on the East coast for the past few days, you probably haven’t been able to talk — or think — about much else. This past Friday, the heat in New York City was measured at the highest its been since 1977 (and only two degrees lower than the all-time record), hitting 104 degrees at the hottest part of the day. This weekend hasn’t been much better, and Americans all over the country are suffering from absurd temperatures and growing addictions to air conditioning. So to celebrate the hottest part of the summer, or maybe just to find a little commiseration in prose, we’ve collected some of the hottest scenes in literature, from Dante exploring the fiery pits of hell to Gatsby and Tom sweating bullets in their white linen shirts. Click through to see our list, and let us know which of your favorite sweaty scenes we’ve missed in the comments!

Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

Obviously there’s some serious heat in this widely-read 14th century epic poem about hell. Wrongdoers are trapped in flamingtombs, plunged into rivers of boiling blood, immersed in individual flames, the soles of their feet burned. In the inner ring of the seventh circle, those violent against God or nature must lie on the burning sand while flames rain down upon them:

“Had there only been some shelter from the fire
I would gladly have cast myself down in their midst,
and I think my teacher would have indulged me.
As it was, since I would have been seared and baked,
fear overcame the good will that made me
hunger and thirst to embrace those men.” (Canto XVI)