Being an author and loving coffee has gone hand-in-hand for centuries. According to the NCA, Americans are drinking more coffee than ever before, with overall consumption of the bean-based beverage increasing by 5% since 2015.
With those statistics, one might wonder why there aren’t more great authors emerging from the woodwork on a daily basis and why creative ideas aren’t flourishing from every corner.
While the jury is still out as to whether or not coffee actually boosts creativity itself, caffeine is a substance proven to enhance a person’s ability to concentrate and solve problems.
For many who already bear the creative affliction, coffee can be a fuel that gives a visionary mind the added boost to take their works to greater heights of mental exploration.
That certainly seems to be the case with these recognizable literary minds, each of which with a strong taste for this particular caffeinated beverage – and often their own unique, sometimes shocking ways of consuming it.
1. Honoré de Balzac
This French novelist and playwright is well known around the world for his numerous influential entries, particularly the sequence of novels, “La Comédie humaine.”
But his coffee consumption – and more specifically, the sheer quantity of coffee he consumed – has become just about as famous as the writer’s body of work itself.
There have been numerous claims that Balzac downed up to 50 cups of coffee per day, although there’s little historical record to back up that figure. Suffice it to say that he found his brew to be a critical part of the creative process, and his habitual bingeing of the beverage – often on an empty stomach – very well may have been his cause of death at the age of 51.
Like many genius minds, Balzac was by no means a conventional thinker. This led to difficulty for him in grammar school, where he was unable to adapt and instead attended boarding school. This didn’t see the end to his academic troubles, marking a time of troublemaking and punishment.
However, young Balzac didn’t view these reprimands as such a negative thing, reportedly giving him plenty of time to read and absorb various literary styles and ideas, helping him to develop his own voice.
It’s unlikely that Balzac had developed his unquenchable taste for coffee at such an early age, but if he had, it can be said with certainty that he would’ve been an even bigger headache for his teachers.
2. Louisa May Alcott
Anyone who’s seen one of the countless iterations of “Little Women” has Louisa May Alcott to thank for every one of them. The American novelist, poet, and short-story writer went on to pen two sequels in this installment including “Little Men,” “Jo’s Boys,” but her works spanned far beyond this series.
“The Inheritance,” which has had its own modern movie makeover, was Alcott’s reaction to the rise in gothic novels and contemporary theater that she was seeing at the time. He was also highly influential as a feminist and spoke out about her opposition to slavery, serving as a nurse during the Civil War.
She was also upfront about her desire for action rather than just empty words, famously quoted as saying, “I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.” She was certainly a woman who should not be kept waiting when she’s requested a cup.
3. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Boasting the informal title of the greatest literary figure to come out of Germany in the modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had a long resume. In addition to his writing work as a novelist, playwright, poet, and critic, Goethe also kept himself busy as a statesman, scientist, and theatre director.
Would it have been possible for him to keep up his busy professional life without some liquid motivation to carry him along?
Goethe apparently loved his coffee but struggled with insomnia. There was no option for decaf at the time because it didn’t exist yet, but luckily for Goethe, he was friends with a chemist, a german by the name of Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, who became the first person to isolate the caffeine from coffee beans in 1820, producing a beverage that Goethe could happily consume without sacrificing his beauty rest.
4. L. Frank Baum
Writer of the beloved “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” book that spawned numerous sequels and became a cultural phenomenon, Lyman Frank Baum loved to start his workday with several cupfuls of coffee.
He was said to take four or five cups with cream or sugar upon waking at 8:00 AM. The cream and sugar were probably necessary to prevent his morning joe from melting off his taste buds: Legend has it that Baum brewed his coffee so strong that you could float a spoon on it.
Apparently, that heavy dose of caffeine before a contemplative walk through the garden was the perfect prescription for Baum to craft his fantastical world of witches and Munchkins.
Baum held down many jobs before taking on writing full-time, including a traveling salesman, chicken rancher, and theater manager. Before “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was published, he had already been successful with two other children’s books.
It’s clear that he was satisfied with the result of his imaginative journey through Oz by the time it was done because he decided to frame what remained of the pencil that he scratched out the iconic story with.
Even the most creative minds can get stumped sometimes, though, and that’s what happened to Baum when he was trying to decide on the name of the fantasy land that we know so well.
Authors know that ideas can come from just about anywhere, and that was the case with the merry old land of Oz: Baum noticed one of the filing cabinets in his study – the “O to Z” drawer in his alphabetically-labeled documents – and that’s all the inspiration it took to give his world a proper name that people would still remember over a century later.
Would he have made this seemingly mundane yet highly influential discovery had it not been for the strong coffee he loved so much?
5. Jonathan Swift
While his habits weren’t as extreme as some of the other authors on this list, Jonathan Swift drank coffee at least weekly to sustain his writing endeavors.
Of coffee, he said, “The best Maxim I know in this life is, to drink your coffee when you can, and when you cannot, to be easy without it.” Swift’s essays, poetry, and political pamphlets earned him a considerable note as an English writer, regarded by many as the first word in prose satire.
It’s a good thing he had access to his weekly dose of java; otherwise, we might not have such works as “Gulliver’s Travels” or “A Tale of Tubs.”
In addition to his literary achievements, Swift is also credited for inventing the name “Vanessa.” Swift had a friend and lover named Esther Vanhomrigh, and it was his pet name for her that went on to become a standard first name for girls around the world. It takes a decent amount of coffee and plenty of audacity to invent a whole new name, and Jonathan Swift turned out to be just the man for the job.
6. Benjamin Franklin
While he is generally thought of first as one of the founding fathers of the United States – with bragging rights of being the only one to have signed all four key documents in the founding of the United States – Benjamin Franklin was also a highly prolific and influential writer of his time.
It’s understandable that many look past his literary accomplishments as a columnist for his brother’s newspaper, considering he wrote under the guise of a widowed woman using the pen name, Silence Dogood. His “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” which brought him considerable wealth, was also written under a pseudonym, this time as Richard Saunders.
Ben Franklin’s fondness for coffee can be seen in this quote, “Among the numerous luxuries of the table … coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable.
It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions … is never followed by sadness, languor, or debility.” He not only like drinking a cup but also clearly regarded it as something in life to be cherished, as it should be.
7. Søren Kierkegaard
If there’s one author who believed in cutting the natural bitterness of coffee with a little sweetness, it was Kierkegaard. Historian Joakim Garff recorded the writer’s delight in dumping as much sugar into his coffee cup as it could physically contain, resulting in a granular white pyramid rising above the rim.
The next step in his questionable coffee consuming ritual was to simply pour hot, extremely strong coffee over the sugary dune and allowed it to dissolve naturally.
The next and final step? Bottoms up – he reportedly downed his coffee in one go, saving him plenty of time to pen such thought-provoking works as “Sickness unto Death” and philosophize on individuality and the concept of free will.
8. Abigail Reynolds
In “Pemberley by the Sea,” Reynolds wrote, “I like my coffee with cream and my literature with optimism.” Abigal Reynolds is famous for her style inspired by Jane Austen, which has earned her a significant following of readers over the course of her career. In addition to her work as an author, Reynolds is also a physician, meaning she likely needs plenty of coffee to keep up with such a busy schedule.
Her “Pemberley Variations” series gives readers a chance to escape back into Jane Austen’s fictional world that perhaps wouldn’t have fully taken form if it weren’t for the coffee Reynolds poured into her cup daily, or the cream that she cut it with.
In “The Pemberley Variations,” Reynolds takes her readers through different narrative journeys rooted in the famous book, “Pride & Prejudice.” It takes a sheer force of creativity as well as a highly caffeinated mind to fully explore these alternate fictional realities and flesh out a story consistent with the characters laid out in Austen’s original work.
Though her historical novels automatically have a level of familiarity to them, bringing readers back to the Regency-era tale that they know and love, Reynold’s unique story choices make for something that’s entirely fresh and new, brought to conclusions that are satisfying and heartwarming.
9. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau’s philosophies, writings, and compositions made him an influential part of the Age of Enlightenment around all corners of Europe. His political theories brought inspiration and new ideas to the leaders who carried out the French Revolution, and he inspired a whole new generation into the Romantic era.
Although his academic record paled in comparison to other modern philosophers, he still rises to the top of the list of key influencers when looking back on that time in history.
He didn’t just enjoy drinking coffee but loved the smell of it as well, embracing the multisensorial experience. He was quoted as saying, “Ah, that is a perfume in which I delight; when they roast coffee near my house, I hasten to open the door to take in all the aroma.”
10. Dorothy Parker
“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.”
That’s what Parker reportedly said in regards to having to interface with other people before having her coffee. Dorothy Parker was an American writer, critic, poet, and satirist from New York, so she undoubtedly knew her way around good coffee.
She used her caffeine addiction to heighten her sharp wit and ability to point out the biggest flaws of 20th-century urban life while putting a comedic twist on it that allowed her readers to identify with it.
Interestingly, Parker first broke into the editorial world by captioning images for Vogue Magazine. This was where her caffeine-fueled wit was allowed to shine and bring to readers a more risque tone that they weren’t familiar with in such a publication, penning such stirring captions as “brevity is the soul of lingerie,” among many others.
Parker was also a woman who wasn’t afraid to make life a little difficult for her professional superiors. This was something that Condé Nast had to learn the hard way as an editorial magnate.
Workdays with Dorothy Parker and her colleagues involved starting late, leaving early, and socializing amongst themselves for a good part of the time they actually were at work. This inability to shut down a good personal conversation sounds exactly like the behavior of a highly functioning coffee fiend at work.
11. Sir Terry Pratchett
While he may not have believed this literally, this English comedic writer had a way of describing coffee’s effects in a way that verged on time travel.
“Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.” Sir Pratchett penned many notable works ranging from satire to fantasy, all tending towards the humorous.
His first novel was “The Carpet People” in 1971, and he went on to author “Discworld,” “Nation,” “Good Omens” (with Neil Gaiman), and “The Nome Trilogy.”
If you’re overwhelmed and not sure all the coffee in the world can help you figure out where to start with this prolific humorist’s works, the good news is you can start with virtually any of his books without requiring any introduction.
François-Marie Arouet, the prolific and versatile French writer, was better known by his mononymous nom de plume, Voltaire.
He believed strongly in the power of free speech and wasn’t afraid to use his to leverage criticism against the Roman Catholic Church and Christianity in general. He was also a fountain of wit.
Voltaire reportedly drank 40 to 50 cups of coffee a day. While this may be an exaggeration, we know that coffee did fuel his ambitious writing endeavors, activism, and quick-witted prose.
While we may be thankful for this philosopher’s addiction, his doctor certainly wasn’t a fan: He told Voltaire that coffee would be the death of him, but since that didn’t come until the age of 83, it was arguably a fair trade-off.
Interestingly, no one is clear on where the name Voltaire came from. It may have been due to his father’s insistence on him entering into a career in the legal field, strongly opposed to his desire to be a writer.
In dropping his family name, he may have been making a statement to demonstrate that he was casting away his old life and rejecting his father’s values.
Voltaire also lands on the list of writers who have served time. His wit may have served him well in his writing in the long run, but it had less desirable effects on the people around during his lifetime, particularly those in positions of power.
In 1716, Voltaire wrote poetry that was at the expense of the French regent’s family, mocking them mercilessly. This was not taken to kindly at all, resulting in him being exiled from Paris for a short period of time.
Could it be that an abundance of caffeine was to blame for his inability to bite his sharp tongue? That is a distinct possibility, considering the fact that it was a mere year after that when he was thrown in jail, confined to the Bastille, when he wrote more poetry with incestuous implications, again directed at the regent. Did this stop Voltaire?
On the contrary, he bragged after being released that the time behind bars gave him plenty of quiet time to think – no doubt about the next installation into his lewd poetry book, roasting the most powerful people in his country.
Another instance of potentially caffeine-induced incarceration in Voltaire’s life happened when he was insulted and beaten by an aristocrat. Resolving that a proper duel was the only way to settle the matter, he set to work formally planning the affair.
Unfortunately for Voltaire (or fortunately, depending on what the outcome would have been), he was arrested before the duel could even take place. Evidently, he’d had enough quiet time in the cell by then because he voluntary exiled himself to England for three years, where apparently the coffee was good enough for him to stay.
13. J.D. Salinger
Many people recognize this author from reading “The Catcher in the Rye” as assigned reading in high school. The main idea behind the story, that there’s no single individual who can save all of mankind, which very well may have come out of his military service in World War II.
Sallinger had already been publishing his works of short fiction in the Story magazine, where he developed his dialogue-focused style of third-person narrative.
Amidst all his writing prowess, Sallinger also had a notable pet peeve that he voices in “The Catcher in the Rhye”: “That’s something that annoys the hell out of me- I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t.”
14. Alexander Pope
The works of poetry and satire that Pope penned in the English Austan period, including “The Dunciad,” “An Essay on Criticism,” and “The Rape of the Lock,” still resonate today.
Through his writings, he communicated dizzying ideas of mankind learning about God and nature through science, how this, in turn, has imbued mankind with power, leading to a “drunk with power” dynamic to the point where mankind tries to start “playing God.”
Is it possible that one mind could swallow all that – let alone conceive of it in the first place – if it weren’t for a strong, hot beverage served in liberal portions?
In “The Rape of the Lock,” Pope wrote: “Coffee, (which makes the politician wise, And see through all things with his half-shut eyes).” Clearly, he believed in the power of the drink.
It has also been said that Pope would cure his headaches by inhaling the steam rising out of a hot cup of coffee, something he called “Mocha’s happy tree.”
15. Gertrude Stein
This American novelist, poet, and playwright is known for her avant-garde style, eccentricity, and the highly individual manner in which she styled her works of literary genius.
She was also an avid art collector, but her connection to art didn’t end with the impressive collection she amassed over her lifetime. Pablo Picasso famously painted a portrait of Stein, one that other subjects might not have been as pleased with as she was.
Known for his experimental distortions and sharp deviations from realism, Picasso’s rendering of Stein featured exaggerated and distorted facial angles, dull colors, and presented the writer as a bulky mass staring blankly into the distance.
Stein adamantly proclaimed that this was the perfect representation of who she was on the inside, so all the countless sessions of her sitting for the painting – reportedly up to 90 – was worth it in the end. It’s quite possible that Stein’s avid coffee drinking helped to keep her awake through these extended sessions.
On the subject of coffee, Stein wrote, “Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”
16. Charles Dickens
“I could settle down into a state of equable low spirits, and resign myself to coffee.”
Judging by this quote from his famous book, David Copperfield, Dickens had a taste for the bean-based brew himself. It makes perfect sense that he would need the caffeine boost to keep up with his highly stressful schedule, as he was often writing more than one book at the same time.
These stories, such as “Oliver Twist,” were all published in installments in local papers, meaning he had no choice but to crank out the words when the constant deadlines kept approaching. It’s hard to imagine what would have become of his darkly humorous tales if he didn’t have the mental boost to keep his pen scratching at the page.
Most people are familiar with at least a handful of Dickens’ groundbreaking works, but fewer people know about his nicknaming tendency. Not only did the author father 10 children, but he also had at least one nickname for each of them.
Notably, his son Alfred became “Skittles” – of no relation to the modern popular candy – his daughter Kate was also known as “Lucifer Box” – which was due to her temper that could flare up in an instant – and “Chickenstalker” for Francis, which may or may not have had anything to do with a proclivity for stalking chickens. Rather, this was a nickname pulled out of the Christmas tale he was writing at the time, “The Chimes.”
Constantly inventing new names for people does seem like the byproduct of an imagination propelled ever forward by caffeine, so it can be reasonably assumed that this was connected to Dickens’ coffee consumption.
17. Albert Camus
Camus had a philosophy on coffee that’s hard to argue with: “Drink some coffee, or else how will you ever get to drink more coffee? Camus is also widely credited as saying, “Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee?” although it’s questionable whether or not he actually ever said or wrote this.
This French author, journalist, and philosopher had a Nobel Prize in Literature to his name by the time he was 44, having penned such influential works as “The Stranger,” “The Myth of Sisyphus,” and “The Rebel.”
It was his crisp honesty that earned him his Nobel Prize, shedding light on mankind’s inner struggles, and it seems clear that his coffee was an important part of confronting those demons.
18. Dave Barry
For a more modern look at coffee-fiending writers, columnist Dave Barry wrote, “It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”
For further proof of Barry’s love of coffee and caffeine that one might call an addiction bordering on obsession, his full article titled “Grounds for Suspicion,” which he wrote in 1997 for the Washington Post, says it all.
Dave Barry’s special brand of humor has garnered him substantial attention and success over the course of his career so far, having been published in over 500 newspapers and authored dozens of books. It’s no doubt with the help of his trusty cup – or cups – of joe that Barry can keep up with his writings while handling serious topics with his unique, quirky wit.
19. Haruki Murakami
Japanese writer Murakami has achieved worldwide acclaim with his short stories, novels, and essays. His works range from surreal fiction to magic realism, to postmodernism, most well known for “Norwegian Wood,” “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” and “Kafka on the Shore.”
In “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” Murakami wrote, “The fresh smell of coffee soon wafted through the apartment, the smell that separates night from day.”
This line alone provides clear evidence that he was no stranger to the alluring aroma of a fresh pot, and that he valued it enough to make it a part of not just his writing process but the writing itself.
20. Stephen King
The king of horror has had numerous vices over his storied career, some more volatile than others. Thankfully, having now purged the most destructive addictions from his life, he is freer to enjoy the restorative and inspiring effects of coffee.
In his book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” he wrote: “Reading in bed can be heaven, assuming you can get just the right amount of light on the page and aren’t prone to spilling your coffee or cognac on the sheets.” If a good cup of coffee is what it takes to craft such chilling masterpieces as “Dreamcatcher” or “It,” most readers would likely deem it a highly worthwhile drinking habit.
21. Christopher Fry
This English poet and playwright wrote influential verse dramas, such as “The Lady’s Not for Burning”, which were no doubt in part aided by his addiction to caffeinated beverages.
He was very particular about his coffee too, having notably stated, “Coffee in England is just toasted milk.” Apparently, Fry required a stronger brew to maintain his influential status in British theatre during the 1940s and ’50s.
22. Douglas Adams
“I tell myself I can’t have another cup of coffee till I thought of an idea.”
That’s what the original master of sci-fi comedy said when he was asked where his inspiration for his absurdly hilarious yet genius books comes from. Adams is famous for his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” novels and radio series, as well as a slew of other works in the comedy and science fiction realms.
It’s easy to imagine the critical need for coffee to come up with such concepts as an Infinite Improbability Drive, a pandimensional and highly lethal game of cricket, and countless other mind-bending concepts that have challenged and inspired readers’ imaginations across the planet Earth and possibly beyond.
While he certainly found his stride in writing, Adams held many other interesting job titles. One of his early livelihoods was serving as a bodyguard for a Qatari family of oil tycoons. No doubt, there was some coffee in his diet during that time to keep him alert and able to identify threats as soon as they presented themselves.
Another less glamorous role he filled was cleaning chicken sheds, a dirty job that takes an alert and energetic mind to keep up with both the sanitation duties and the fending off of territorial roosting birds.
His big moment of inspiration that led to his most notable sci-fi series, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” occurred when he was lying drunk in a field while hitchhiking across Europe.
Anyone living the hitchhiker’s lifestyle and keeping up a regular routine of imbibing alcohol must have an equally robust habit of coffee consumption to get you back up out of the field and hitchhiking again, so fans of this comedic genius’s work have all the more reason to be thankful for the existence of coffee in our galaxy.
23. T.S. Eliot
This highly recognizable name in poetry certainly had a vice in coffee, evidenced by the fact that he wrote “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” in his famous work, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
Thomas Stearns Elliot wrote essays and plays in addition to his poetry, as well as working as a literary critic. As one of the 20th century’s major poets, it’s a good thing there were enough coffee spoons to measure out his highly influential life with.
Most people envision T.S. Eliot as a straight-laced man with a sense of propriety, and there’s a good reason for that: Eliot worked hard to maintain this facade. He can hardly be blamed for feeling the need to control his image in this way, considering the fact that most of his time as a poet, he was also working as a banker, a high official position.
But the fact that this was not who he truly was inside is evidenced by his tendency to pull off elaborate pranks using a variety of props including but not limited to whoopee cushions, firecrackers, and exploding cigars. It’s hard enough for some people to maintain one image of themself, but Eliot had caffeine on his side to help him keep up a formal front for the sake of his professional life.
24. David Lynch
Lynch is known for his visual storytelling that disturbs viewers in shocking, unique, and extremely memorable ways. From his work as a writer, musician, visual artist, painter, filmmaker, and actor, David Lynch is always looking to challenge people with stark juxtapositions of the mundane with the macabre. How does the mind of such a twisted genius work?
Apparently, not without coffee. Lynch is quoted as saying, “Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all,” indicating that while he might not be a snob for quality, he certainly has a need for some caffeine in his veins to get the creative juices of horror flowing.
Beyond his extensive list of creative credits, Lynch also busies himself with building furniture. This caffeine addict never seems to stop, and he’s clearly proud of his work: Many of his furniture designs have wound up in his films and other works.
Clearly, when a person has the knack for creativity it can come out in any number of mediums, and in many cases, coffee is the linchpin that makes it all possible.
25. Flash Rosenberg
“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee”
This interesting take on the cause of human productivity comes from the creative mind of Flash Rosenberg, a writer, and artist whose creative mind never stops questioning.
In addition to her writing, she also draws, photographs, and performs her creative works. It’s obvious that she values her coffee to be productive and reach farther in her far-reaching ideas.