Having a favorite notebook is even dorkier than having a favorite pen. It’s a pile of paper that you write on. But the subtleties and special features really affect your workflow. A hardcover Moleskine adds some class to your note-taking, but it’s a terrible choice if you like to rip out pages when you’re done with them. Here are the Lifehacker staff’s favorite notebooks and why we love them.
Virginia K. Smith, Managing Editor:
I have a ruled, classic Moleskine in red, which I love. It’s cheery and eye-catching and makes me a little more inclined to use it than when I’ve had black notebooks. Sturdy, fits in my bag, gets the job done.
Michelle Woo, Parenting Editor:
A notebook should be 1) small enough to fit into my fanny pack so I can bring it with me on walks, 2) flexible but not flimsy, 3) gridded, and 4) inexpensive. The MUJI brand 5mm grid A5-size notebook fits that criteria.
Nick Douglas, Staff Writer:
Perforation, perforation, perforation! Once I’ve digitized a page of writing, I want to trash it. The top-spiral ruled Rhodia is about half-letter-sized, big enough for extended writing but small enough to carry all day. I can flip the pages all the way back, so the notebook sits flat and only takes up the space of one page.
Beth Skwarecki, Health Editor:
Leuchtturm1917 makes the best hardcover notebooks. The pages are pre-numbered, and there is a blank table of contents. They come equipped with TWO ribbon bookmarks, a rubber band closure, a back pocket, and some sticky labels you can put on the spine and cover when you archive them to your bookshelf. I use the medium (A5) size, with dotted paper if I think the mood to bullet journal may strike me, lined or grid otherwise.
Choosing a color is tough, but I recommend thinking about your personality and hopes and dreams while you pick up each one in a bookstore. You can’t ask for help, you have to make this decision with your heart. Mine so far have been Berry, Azure, Ice Blue, and Lemon.
Joel Kahn, Senior Video Producer:
I don’t really know the name for my notebook (since it was swag that I took from a work event several years ago), but here are the key features: the cover is very hard cardboard, which makes it almost like a clipboard. Easy to write on anywhere! Basically a built-in table! Also the spiral is small in proportion to the paper, so you can easily write on the reverse side without losing half the page space to make room for your hand. This seems to be the closest approximation.
Meghan Walbert, Contributing Writer:
I use a standard bullet journal, along with an assortment of pens, stickers and tapes to fancy it up. I use it as both a weekly/monthly planner, as well as a place to keep to-do lists, longterm goal-tracking and reminders. With an orange cover, cuz orange is cheerful.
David Murphy, Tech Editor:
A simple Moleskine—lined, so my writing doesn’t look like I’m trying to compose a ransom letter or something.
Heather Hass, Creative Producer:
I will use anything to write words. Probably because I like writing (aesthetically) so most of my notes are a little…useless but pretty! For drawing I’m a little pickier: I prefer the tooth of a Moleskine to any sketchbook.
Melissa Kirsch, Editor-in-Chief:
It used to be you had to go to Europe to get a good notebook, and by “good notebook” I mean one that didn’t wasn’t wide rule, blue lines on white paper, ho-hum. My peak notebook experience involved a saddle-stapled number I picked up in Rome that had a brown cardboard cover (way pre-Field Notes) and graph paper inside, the grid of which was brown and it had this subtle brown gradient on each page. Trust me, it was amazing.
Since then I’ve searched high and low for something that equals the fun of that weird Roman notebook, and the best I’ve found is the Grids & Guides notebook from Princeton Architectural Press. The cover is a solid cloth-covered cardboard with an embossed grid pattern creating a nice hand feel. Inside, every page has a different pleasing grid or dot or pattern layout. Little charts and diagrams on random pages scattered throughout act as a palate cleanser: Before you take another note, why not check out these cute little drawings of different kinds of knots? It’s a good notebook!
Claire Lower, Food Editor:
I currently am using four different notebooks, but my favorite is this clipboard situation from Paper Tigre. I do most of my recipe sketching and development on these sheets, which I can then rip off and file (or toss) as needed. Plus setting a clipboard down in a wet spot is less disastrous than setting a notebook down in a wet spot.