It’s back to school time, so you’ll need to stock up on essentials like pens and notebooks. But what are the best notebooks money can buy right now? Here are my picks for the 2021 back-to-school season…
When I’m not writing blog posts for online publications, I’m working on books. Novels, mostly. As a published author – my first book, Epiphany Jones, made a bunch of best books lists – I am constantly jotting down plot ideas, story twists, and bits and bobs about characters.
I admit, I do use my iPhone a lot for this. But nothing compares to putting pen to paper. In this respect, I’m pretty old school. But there is just something about physically writing down your ideas on paper. I feel like it imprints more on my mind when I do this.
For this reason, I’ve taken a notebook with me wherever I go for the last decade or so. In that time, I’ve gone throw loads of them – maybe 20 or 30. And they’re all filled to the brim with ideas and notes. For my first book, I think I filled around 5 notebooks.
For this reason, I know a bit about what makes a good notebook. And while that might sound silly, there really is quite a bit that goes into making a quality notebook – from the quality of the paper to the durability of the spine. It all matters.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite notebooks from over the years. I’ve used and filled all of the options listed below. They’re my go-to notebooks for prepping a novel, making notes, and developing ideas. If you need a good notebook, the following notebooks will impress you no end.
The Best Notebooks Money Can Buy
4. Moleskine Volant Journal
I think my first ever, proper notebook was a Moleskine. I love the way these things are made, the front and back covers. Everything about them, basically. If you’re after an affordable, good-quality notebook for journalling and jotting down plans and ideas, a Moleskine is perfect.
My current favorite Moleskin, however, has to the Moleskine Volant Journal. This beautifully crafted notebook has 96 pages, is perfectly sized (five-by-eight inches) for my bag and satchel, and the pages, while lined, are done so in a way that invites composition.
The writing experience on the Moleskine Volant Journal is pleasant and efficient; the paper is of excellent quality. All of my pens flow wonderfully across it. I also love that its cover is plasticky; it means I know it can withstand some splashes and bumps.
For me, this inexpensive, quality notebook is a great option for anyone that wants a portable, tidy notebook for journalling, study, or, like me, parsing together bits and pieces for a novel. You can get two of these notebooks for $15 via Amazon.
3. Livework Moment Leather Blank Journal
I used the Livework Moment Leather Blank Journal a few years back now, but I have fond memories of this notebook. I wrote most of the plot for my second book in it over the course of a couple of years.
As notebooks go, the Livework Moment Leather Blank Journal is about as handsome and debonair as it gets. You have an eye-catching, classical front and back cover that is both nice to look at and extremely sturdy.
The paper inside is top-notch too, and I love its off-white hue, it’s just so much easier on the eyes. The pages are completely blank too, so if you prefer a blank page, the Livework Moment Leather Blank Journal is a great place to jot down your thoughts and plans.
The Livework Moment Leather Blank Journal is available for around $30 and, while that might sound expensive, the quality of this notebook really is second to none which is the main reason why it is one of my all-time favorite notebooks.
2. Muji Paper Bind Notebook A6
Out of all the notebooks I have owned and used, the vast majority of them have been the Muji Paper Bind Notebook. Why? Because it is cheap, exceptionally well put together, robust, and is excellent for making notes in, as well as doodling, and planning out chapters.
I’ve bought maybe 5 or so of these notebooks over the years and, again, the reason is simple. The card-stock front and rear make it easy, even inviting to draw on, so you can add stickers for project names, or doodles, so you know what the notebook is for.
The paper is smooth to write on and has a very light white hue in its coloring. I tend to use a biro with this notebook because inkier pens tend to seep through and become visible when you turn the page. A pencil works best with this one, to be honest.
The Muji Paper Bind Notebook is a workhorse-type notebook; it’s not fancy, it doesn’t have a leather cover, but it gets the job done and you don’t mind if it gets bent out of shape or knocked about.
Ideal for students, diarists, or designers that like to sketch on the move, the Muji Paper Bind Notebook is an inexpensive notebook that ticks a lot of boxes.
1. Public Supply Soft Cover Notebook
The King of notebooks, the one that stole my heart recently has to the Public Supply Soft Cover Notebook. Not only is this notebook damn-near perfect in every way, but Public Supply donates proceeds from every sale to public schools throughout the USA.
The pages inside the Public Supply Soft Cover Notebook are the best I have ever come across. They’re gorgeous to write on, the surface is slick too, so there’s no ink bleed-through, and the color – it’s kind of dull white – is so much easier on the eyes than most other notebooks.
You can get the Public Supply Soft Cover Notebook in either dot or lined configuration; I have both variants but I do prefer the lined option (for obvious reasons).
All the paper Public Supply uses is FSC certified too, meaning it is only sourced from responsibly managed forests. And if that wasn’t enough to endear you towards this magnificent notebook, it is also available with a myriad of cover options and colors, including limited edition ones.
I gave several Public Supply Soft Cover Notebooks in my collection and I use them all the time. If you want the absolute best notebook on the market, the Public Supply Soft Cover Notebook is the one to go for.
Bonus Round: My Favorite Pen For Composition
As for pens, well that’s a different story altogether. Over the years, I used many, many brands. But my current favorite pen for composition is the Tombow Havanna Rollerball Pen, it is stunning and it writes beautifully.
It is also the pen favored by many of my favorite screenwriters and directors too. That’s how I found out about it in the first place! It ain’t cheap, but when writing is how you make a living, it’s OK to treat yourself to an expensive pen every now and then, right?
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.