- Notebooks are essential tools for writers, artists, students, and anyone who wants to keep track of their daily thoughts.
- The best notebook for most people is the Miquelrius Flexible Black Leather Cover Notebook because of its durable, eco-friendly exterior that binds 300 sheets of high-quality extra opaque paper.
Paper is dead media? Not quite. Chances are you already have a note-taking app on your smartphone or tablet, but despite this technological convenience, many people still prefer to keep a notebook handy for personal reflection and organization.
Psychologists have noted the many health benefits of journaling, too. It can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, reduce stress, and solve problems more efficiently. Skeptical of this type of pop psychology? Then put your faith in literary icon Joan Didion, who writes about the profound ways in which you can learn about yourself simply by recording daily observations. If soul-searching isn’t your thing, having a notebook, or a planner, is also a practical way of keeping your life in order.
The ideal notebook should be durable enough to use over a long period of time and contain high-quality paper that won’t deteriorate in storage. The type of paper you choose should depend on your intended use for the notebook. Artists and those who prefer to write with fountain pens will want a notebook containing thick paper, with a high gram per square meter (gsm) count. Lighter paper is better for note-taking, as it tends to be smoother and allows you to write faster. We researched and tested both varieties to find the best of thick and thin.
Additional features like paper size, sheet style (ruled, dotted, graph or blank), and format are also important factors to consider before purchasing a notebook. We’ve rounded up the best of several different styles to help you find a notebook that will match your specific needs.
Here are the best notebooks you can buy:
- Best notebook overall: Miquelrius Flexible Black Leather Cover Notebook
- Best notebook for traveling: Rite in the Rain All-Weather Hard Cover Notebook
- Best notebook for artists: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Book
- Best notebook for note-taking: Midori MD Notebook
- Best notebook for lefties: Lemome A5 Wide Ruled Hardcover Writing Notebook
Updated on 07/24/2019 by Les Shu: Updated prices, links, and formatting.
Keep reading for more details about our top picks.
The best notebook overall
The Miquelrius Flexible Handmade Leather Journal is bound by bendable but tough recycled leather and packed thick with 300 sheets of smooth, wide-ruled paper.
The Miquelrius Flexible Handmade Leather Journal is handcrafted in Spain by a company that has been crafting stationery for 179 years. The lightweight, extra-opaque paper (70 gsm) is smooth to the touch and the margins are wider than some of its more popular competitors, like Moleskine.
Although the paper is thinner than other notebooks, the strong opacity allows you to write with any style of pen, without your words “ghosting” the back of the page. I prefer to use a felt-tip with this notebook because I think it complements the smoothness of the paper and makes it easier to write fast.
The paper is bound by glue as opposed to the more traditional thread-stitching. This isn’t always the most dependable method, but my notebook has survived for more than two years without the binding showing any signs of wear, and I take it with me everywhere I go.
One Amazon reviewer, who described the Miquelrius as a go-to journal, said, “So far, I have never had the journal come apart/lose pages. I use these every day and they take quite a bit of handling, so they seem quite durable.”
The recycled leather has a coarse surface that is virtually impenetrable to scratches and scuff marks. But at the same time, the material is elastic, so the cover and binding fold in half with ease. This ensures the notebook will lay flat when opened to any page. And since the binding isn’t stiff, you don’t need to keep your writing hand grounded in order to keep the pages from turning unintentionally.
The Miquelrius Flexible Handmade Leather Journal comes in two different sizes: 6 by 8.2 inches and a smaller 4 by 5.75 inches. We recommend the larger option that uses an A5 sheet size. This format gives you just the right amount of space on the page. Anything larger would make the notebook bulky, given its hefty page-count.
This size comes in two sheet styles: lined and graph. Miquelrius notebooks are certainly not cheap, but they are good investments.
Note: This product ships internationally and may incur an extra shipping cost.
Pros: Durable leather cover, smooth pages, generous page count
The best notebook for traveling
- Rite in the Rain
The Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Hard Cover Notebook uses a special paper that repels water, sweat, grease, and mud.
Designed specifically for outdoor use, Rite in the Rain notebooks are the ideal travel companions for writers on the go. The notebook uses wood-based, recyclable paper protected by a patented coating that the company has been innovating for more than 100 years.
Rite in the Rain’s 32-pound paper (120 gsm) also meets the standard for archival quality paper, ensuring your travel memories will endure through years of storage. One fan, whose father fought in the Navy during World War II, said, “His 1942 Rite in the Rain journal is still intact, containing daily accounts of life during the war.”
For its hardcovers, Rite in the Rain uses Fabrikoid, a unique type of imitation leather made from cotton cloth. The company’s softcover notebooks have a more flexible paper-based cover. But for travelers, we suggest the hardcover option. Even if your itinerary is more city walking tour than rainforest excursion, it’s always a good idea to have a little extra protection when you take a notebook to take on the road.
The thread-stitched binding and glue are also designed to be weather resistant. One Amazon reviewer confirmed that they last, saying, “The pages feel like they’re great quality. The binding is great. The cover is durable. And yes … the pages repel water.”
An important factor to consider, however, is the limitation on writing instruments that are compatible with the water-resistant paper. When the paper is wet, you are limited to writing with pencils, wax markers, crayons or Rite in the Rain’s specially-designed pens. When it’s dry you can use permanent markers and ballpoint pens, but the paper will not work with gel pens, fountain pens, or highlighters. If you’re traveling and lose your writing instrument, this can be frustrating.
Rite in the Rain’s Weatherproof Hard Cover Notebook comes in several different field-specific sheet styles, but also the standard lined and grid formats. At 80 sheets, the notebook won’t weigh you down, but it still provides enough paper to last your entire trip.
Pros: Designed to fight the elements, ideal size for travel
Cons: Water-resistant paper only works with certain writing instruments
The best notebook for artists
- Global Art Materials
The Speedball Travelogue Watercolor Book has an elegant natural-linen binding and uses paper that works well with both paint and ink.
There are several different types of watercolor paper. The Speedball Travelogue Watercolor Book uses cold-pressed paper, which is more textured than hot-pressed but smoother than rough watercolor paper. This makes the Travelogue Watercolor Book functional for its intended purpose, but also compatible with mixed media compositions and ink sketches.
One art blogger compared it to a similar Moleskine notebook, saying, “I prefer the cold press paper here than the Moleskine. It’s suitable for pen ink and watercolor. The sizing on both sides of the paper is more consistent. And it handles wet on wet slightly better than the Moleskine.”
To get an idea of the thickness, the paper is 200 gsm, which is a common weight for Manila folders and index cards. And since all fine artists have an eye for visual aesthetics, this notebook gets a few extra points for its elegant natural-linen cover. The exterior is also quite durable and includes an elastic closure.
The Speedball Travelogue Watercolor Book is bound by a combination of glue and thread stitching. One Amazon user complained about the glue spreading and sticking to the pages, but after contacting the company, the buyer received a free replacement notebook that earned a new 5-star review.
The large landscape format seems to be the most popular among watercolor painters, but the notebook also comes in two portrait sizes, a square size, and a unique pocket panorama format. The notebook only contains 60 pages, but given the high-quality paper, it’s still a value pick.
Note: This product was previously known as the Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Book.
Pros: Meant for watercolor, but also works great with ink
Cons: It’s only 60 pages
The best notebook for note-taking
The ultra-smooth texture and wide margins inside the Midori MD Notebook make note-taking fast and easy.
When it comes to note-taking, speed is the name of the game. Students and professionals who need to jot down information quickly will appreciate the fact that Midori’s paper is made from broad-leaved trees instead of more common conifer trees, which gives an added smoothness.
The Japanese company takes a lot of pride in how they make paper (its website provides an in-depth look at the process) and after continuous use, I found that the paper is the main reason why the Midori MD Notebook is the best for note-taking.
A close second, however, is the margins. When I’m writing fast, my handwriting gets much larger, and the wide margins help reduce sloppy note-taking. It also has a unique bold centerline in the middle of each page, so you can divide the upper and lower sections and organize accordingly.
Midori notebooks are known for their clean, minimalist aesthetic. The exterior consists of a blank sheet of paraffin paper instead of a traditional cover. Although the coverless design is attractive, after a while, it will show signs of ware. This isn’t a good notebook for extended use outside of the classroom or office space.
The thread-stitched binding, however, is quite durable. It’s only covered by a strip of cheesecloth mesh tape, so you can crease the binding – just like you would a paperback novel. This feature also keeps your writing hand at a comfortable angle, allowing you to take notes over a period of time without cramping up.
A Wired review noted how Midori “pairs a minimalist look with maximalist functionality: Open the notebook at any page and it’ll lie at a flat 180 degrees.”
I prefer the A5 sheet size. Midori offers this version in lined, gridded, and blank. It’s also available in A4, A6, and a slimmer B4, but not all versions are easy to find in the United States. At 88 pages, the notebook is the perfect length to dedicate to a class or work project.
Pros: Smooth paper for writing fast, large margins, attractive minimalist design
Cons: It doesn’t have a cover
The best notebook for lefties
The Lemome A5 Wide Ruled Hardcover Writing Notebook is ideal for left-handed writers because of its extra-thick paper that dries quickly and prevents smudging.
Lefties living in the right-handed world know the struggle of finding products that accommodate our unique predicament. Especially when it comes to writing, we seek out pens that don’t bleed, steer clear of wire-bound notebooks, and loathe having to constantly wash the ink off the side of our hands. But these inconveniences can be avoided by using a notebook like the Lemome A5 Wide Ruled Hardcover Writing Notebook, which boasts thick, 125-gsm paper that dries fast and prevents smudging.
Lemome says its paper is 30% to 50% thicker than normal notebooks. With more than 600 customer reviews on Amazon, the notebook maintains a 4.7 out of 5 rating, and much of the acclaim is due to the quality of the paper. One reviewer, who noted the exceptional balance, said, “The paper is coated enough that the ink does not bleed out but also absorbs/dries fast enough to not smear.”
The faux leather exterior guards the front and back cover of the notebook, but not the thread-stitched binding. Lefties will enjoy this unique feature because it adds protection without reducing the flexibility of the notebook. That means the front cover won’t rise up against your hand while you’re trying to write – a constant nuisance for lefties who prefer hardcover notebooks. Some people, however, have had issues with the binding coming undone.
The one sacrifice lefties have to make when opting for thick paper is smoothness. The 125-gsm paper is admittedly coarse and it’s hard to write fast on it, which can be frustrating at times. But an added plus, there’s virtually no bleed or ghosting, even with wet ink.
The notebook contains 90 sheets, and as a hardcover, the price is very reasonable (usually around $15 on Amazon). It comes in the standard blank, dot, grid, and ruled sheet styles, with an A5 paper size. It also has an elastic closure and an elastic pen holder on the outside of the binding.
Pros: Paper dries quickly, the firm binding lays the notebook flat
Cons: Paper thickness makes it less smooth, some users have had issues with the binding
Check out our guide to the best smart notebooks
A smart notebook can make your note-taking more interactive and intuitive. The Moleskine Smart Writing Set is our favorite because it’s a high-quality notebook with a great pen and an easy-to-use app that syncs all your notes.
We also like the Wacom Bamboo Slate for people who enjoy drawing, because this notebook is easy to use and comes in two sizes, making it a great option for artists and note-takers alike. You can also get it in a larger, more professional Folio notebook style.
If you’re looking for a notebook that will last forever, the Rocketbook Everlast is about as close as you can get. It uses special paper and pens so you can just wipe down the page after it’s served its purpose. The company also makes the Rocketbook Wave, which saves your notes to the cloud lets you microwave it to erase the pages when you’re done.