Write This Down: These Are the Best Notebooks for Putting Pen to Paper

In a day of e-everything — shopping to dating, working to playing — the touchable, analog world becomes the place to find reassurance and comfort. Those things that we still do by hand become ritualized, with their own icons and fetishes. Housekeeping used to be pretty mundane until it was elevated to an art form with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products and Marie Kondo’s KonMarie magical methods. Cooking has become a blood sport on one hand (The Great British Baking Show) and reduced to an attainable, though gourmet-level experience on the other (Blue Apron). Perhaps the one most precious act we humans have engaged in for the past 10,000 years or so, writing, does not escape this ritualization.

best notebooks for writing and planning rhodia

We can take notes on our laptops and phones. There are even AIs that can take and sort out meeting notes with scarcely the need for a proofreader (yes … there’s an app for that). And yet, writing is the one thing many of us still choose to do ourselves. Jotting notes and observations; outlining or even making full first drafts of projects is still often done with pen and paper. It’s as though the mind-to-paper connection offers some direct communication with our subconscious or a higher power, as alive as our nerve endings themselves. 

For those of us who still prefer to write, having the perfect pen and paper is tantamount to having a calibrated race car or a finely tuned guitar. A notebook becomes much more than a repository of ideas. It also makes a statement about personal style with the same impact as shoes or a necktie. Here we’ve gathered a few of our favorites, where some are more about form, others about function. 

Rhodia Meeting Pad – $6
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Although Rhodia also makes regular notepads and notebooks, we like this meeting pad for those of us who spend our days having meetings to plan meetings (oh, come on … nothing gets done until after 5:00 p.m., anyway). Available in two sizes, the coated, waterproof card stock cover protects the notebook, while each page is perforated for easy removal. Preprinted with guidelines for date, notes, and actions, the Meeting Pad will help keep you and the team focused and prepared for the next meeting.

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Field Notes Three Missions Series – $13
best notebooks for writing and planning field notes three missions

If watching the movie First Man leaves you craving mid-century astronaut adventures, Field Notes has just the thing to launch your imagination. The Three Missions Series celebrates the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs that eventually landed the United States (and “mankind”) on the moon. The pack comes with three of Field Notes’ handy 3 1/2” by 5 1/2” notebooks, as well as three “Punch-Out and Assemble” mission-specific crew capsule models. Check out the website for a film to see how the models were actually tested in space, and returned safely to Earth.  

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Moleskine Limited Edition 007 Movie Notebook – $25
best notebooks for writing and planning moleskine 007

“Bond 25” isn’t due out until 2020, but we can already anticipate the return of the world’s favorite British super-spy, complete with all the gadgets Q can dream up. Moleskine has created this contraption for those of us who are super-fans of the series. One of three limited edition notebooks, the Movies version includes an embossed hard cover featuring the titles of favorite James Bond films, as well as themed endpapers and stickers. Miss Moneypenney, do put this on the office supplies list for me, would you? 

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Muji High Quality Flat Open Notebook B6 Ruled Black – $6
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Muji elevates Japanese minimalism to an art form, featuring a simple, quality notebook at an excellent price. The book features high quality paper, and is bound in such a way as to lay flat when open for easy note taking. Available in black; or gray if you prefer grids to lines on the page. The B6 does not refer to the vitamin, but to the International Standard Organization’s guidelines for paper trimmed to a specific formula, in this case, 4.9 inches by 6.9 inches. You may provide your own life-changing magical formulas.

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Poppin Medium Soft Cover Notebook – $9
best notebooks for writing and planning poppin medium soft cover notebook orange

Some people seek enlightenment through minimalism, others through superior color coordination. The design team at Poppin makes sure that once you’ve chosen your signature hue, it’s available in everything from desk trays to staplers to furniture. The soft cover means it’s easily flexible and portable, and includes a pocket on the back cover to stash business cards, receipts, or Pantone chips.

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Mead Five Star Composition Notebook Graph Ruled – $3
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Combining simplicity and color at an excellent price, time travel back to high school with this utilitarian composition notebook. It has a sewn binding to lay flat, a durable plastic cover,  and 100 pages of graph ruled paper to let your imagination fly in either right- or left-brain mode. Move to the head of the class. 

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Black n’ Red Casebound Business Notebook – $15
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The crisp, clean design of the classic Black n’ Red is described as being “ideal for permanent note-taking,” perfect if you’re planning to pass your journals down to posterity, or just want to know that you can refer back to moments from months and years past. They are case bound for durability, and use thick paper for no bleed-through. The inside cover includes a handy date planner to note key meetings and events, as well as contents and personal details. There’s also a map with time zones and conversion tables. Now, let’s get down to business, shall we? 

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Write Sketch & {Milano} Arco Black Notebook – $6
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Admittedly, a little bit more of a “viaggio” for your notebook order, but when searching for the truly design-obsessed, Write Sketch &’s products feature unique cover prints…and shapes…some of which are more easily available at the MoMA Design Store. With Halloween approaching, we couldn’t pass up this tombstone-shaped notebook. On the other hand, for those who observe the Jewish holidays…isn’t it also kind of perfect for Shavuot? G-d forbid. 

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Bellroy Mini Leather Notebook Cover – $80
best notebooks for writing and planning bellroy notebook cover

Because if one is truly obsessed by note taking, having a really awesome notebook cover lets us take our obsession to a whole new level. This calfskin leather cover from Bellroy not only protects standard smaller notebooks from getting beat up, but it also features convenient storage for a pen, business or credit cards, and can even fit a passport and boarding passes. Bon voyage. 

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If digital jotting is more your thing, check out the top choices for best note taking apps.

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