A friend once told me that on the hottest days of summer, I should drink a cup of hot coffee. He swore that heating up my insides would cause my outsides to cool down.
I couldn’t bring myself to try this, and he just shook his head at my ignorance as I gulped ice-cold water. But I think what he told me makes scientific sense.
And now I’m wondering if reading about superhot places might have the same cooling effect.
This has been a hellaciously hot July. So here are 10 books set in hot weather or steamy locations that might help you cool down. Or who knows? Maybe they’ll just make you hotter.
In that case, crank the air conditioning, and read on.
“Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli (2019) • A family drives from New York to the Southwest one summer, the parents wrestling with their relationship as well as concerns about the crisis at the border.
“From the Heat of the Day” by Roy Heath (1979) • Set in Guyana, the first book in Heath’s “Armstrong Trilogy” follows the fortunes of a young couple whose life takes a tragic turn when their young son dies.
“The Foxes of Harrow” by Frank Yerby (1946) • The first novel by an African American writer to sell more than 1 million copies, “The Foxes of Harrow” is set in New Orleans during the Civil War.
“Atonement” by Ian McEwan (2001) • This sweeping novel begins on a summer day in the English countryside when a teenage girl named Briony accuses a neighbor of sexually assaulting another girl. The novel moves forward from there, but everything begins with that sweltering afternoon.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) • Set on Long Island during the hot summer of 1922, this classic novel is the story of doomed romance, longing and decadence as we follow bootlegger Jay Gatsby through his wild parties and mysterious death.
“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner (1930) • Told in 59 chapters from 15 points of view, Faulkner’s classic novel is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and its aftermath. Set, of course, in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.
“Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward (2011) • Set in Mississippi in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, this National Book Award-winning novel is the story of an African American family dealing with motherless children, a teen pregnancy and a missing dog.
“Euphoria” by Lily King (2014) • Based loosely on the life of Margaret Mead, Lily King’s Kirkus Prize-winning novel is the story of two married cultural anthropologists in New Guinea and a third who falls madly in love with the wife. This book is steamy in all definitions of the word.
“Hell” by Robert Olen Butler (2009) • Set in hell (and is there any place hotter?), this comic novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Butler finds Hades populated with the likes of William Shakespeare, Humphrey Bogart, Anne Boleyn and most of the U.S. presidents.
“The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri (1320) • Part One, “The Inferno,” takes you right down through the nine circles of hell. Maybe not that much heat, but plenty of anguish.