Alighieri, Dante. Paradiso. Trans. John Ciardi. New York: New American Library, 1987.
The third and final book in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Paradiso describes Dante’s ascent through Heaven toward God. Guided by Beatrice herself, Dante converses with the saints about their lives and theological questions and is awed by the beauty of Heaven.

Alighieri, Dante. Purgatorio. Trans. John Ciardi. New York: New American Library, 1987.
The second book in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Purgatorio traces Dante’s and Virgil’s ascent through Purgatory, from its shores near Hell to its peak where the waters of Lethe wash away sin. The people they meet in Purgatory are being punished for their sins, but unlike the people in Hell, because those in Purgatory trust in God, they are guaranteed that they will eventually enter Heaven. 

Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953.
A work of literary criticism, Mimesis compares the ways that classic literary texts, from Homer’s Odyssey through modern poetry, depict reality. Mimesis analyzes Dante’s description of Farinata and Cavalcante, heretics from Canto 10.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Dante’s The Divine Comedy: Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
This is a collection of critical readings, or interpretations, of Dante’s work across a range of literary theories from scholars active in the mid-20th century. 

Chiarenza, Marguerite. The Divine Comedy: Tracing God’s Art. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
This book analyzes the background, characters, themes, and artistic devices of the Divine Comedy; it is written not as a scholarly work but as a student guide to Dante. 

Himmelfarb, Martha. Tours of Hell: An Apocalyptic Form in Jewish and Christian Literature. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.
This book describes the ways that Jewish and Christian literature commonly picture the afterlife; the analysis contextualizes Dante’s Inferno with further information about other stories of Hell written during the late classical period and the Middle Ages.  

Tierney, Brian, ed. The Crisis of the Church & State: 1050–1300. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1964.
This book tracks the ongoing struggle between the church and state for political authority from the early to the late Middle Ages. Because Dante was embroiled in the church/state conflicts of medieval Italy and exiled from Florence due to his opposition to the pope, this historical analysis provides important details on the cause, proceedings, and impacts of ongoing tensions between the church and state in medieval Europe.