The Best Notebooks and Notepads for Memos and More

Always have a place for your notes and your thoughts with a notebook or notepad close at hand.

BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

The Best Notebooks Option

Photo: amazon.com

Notebooks are incredibly versatile products typically used for taking school notes, journaling, or a wide variety of utility purposes, like writing grocery lists or leaving quick notes for the family before leaving the house. They are available with a variety of options including cover designs, bindings, paper type, and even the material used to make the paper.

The best notebooks or notepads for you will depend on how they are going to be used. For instance, if you need a notebook for working outside, it’s better to invest in a waterproof notebook that won’t get damaged in poor weather. Students will want a pile of cheaper notebooks to save money while still being able to fill them up with hastily scribbled study notes. Take a look at the top products below and read on for more useful information to help you find some of the best notebook for your purposes.

  1. BEST OVERALL: CooLeather Leather Journal Writing Notebook
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: TOPS/Oxford 1-Subject Notebooks, 8″ x 10-1/2″
  3. BEST FOR NOTE-TAKING: TOPS FocusNotes Note Taking System 1-Subject Notebook
  4. BEST FOR ARTISTS: conda 8.5″x11″ Double-Sided Hardbound Sketchbook
  5. BEST FOR TRAVELING: Robrasim Refillable Handmade Travelers Notebook
  6. BEST FOR LEFTIES: BookFactory NotRight (Left-Handed) Notebook
  7. BEST SPIRAL NOTEBOOK: Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Side Spiral Notebook
  8. BEST POCKET NOTEBOOK: GLORYFIRE Waterproof Notebook
  9. BEST DOTTED NOTEBOOK: Lemome Dotted Bullet Notebook with Pen Loop
  10. BEST WATERPROOF NOTEBOOK: Elan Publishing The Indestructible Field Notebook
The Best Notebooks Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Notebooks

Before choosing a notebook or notepad, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the most important shopping considerations to keep in mind.

Purpose

How you will be using your notebook is the first thing you need to know before deciding on what notebook to get.

  • Studying benefits from lined paper that may also have organizational features like a margin for notes or an included calendar to help keep track of when assignments are due.
  • Art requires a very different type of notebook. The pages in an art notebook or sketchbook should be thick and absorbent enough to hold the color and shading you add, helping you bring your creation to life with markers, pens, and colored pencils.
  • Travel notebooks should be small enough to carry around with you, and they should have protective clasps to keep the notebook closed when you are not using it. This type of notebook may also be waterproof to help protect your writing in poor conditions.
  • Work notebooks can be split into two groups depending on whether you work in an office or a similar environment, or if you work in a range of less sedate locations, like a factory, on a boat, or in various utility rooms. Office notebooks need clean, lined pages with an elegant cover to assure that the notebook lives up to the office standards. For more dangerous locations, get a rugged, durable notebook that can withstand bad weather, water, scratches, tearing, and possibly even mild burns.

Size

The size of the notebook should be considered for a few reasons. First, you want to have a notebook that is large enough or small enough to serve its purpose. A small notepad is going to be next to useless if you need to take detailed notes at school, while an oversized notebook seems like overkill for leaving refrigerator notes.

The second consideration for size is where you will be using it. Small notebooks are a great option for travel because they can fit easily into a coat, sweater, or pants pocket. You should also note the size and thickness of the notebook cover, as a leatherbound notebook can be much larger than a simple spiral notebook. This remains true even if they have the same number of pages, because leather is much thicker and heavier than the typical light, cardboard covers on spiral notebooks.

Pages

When you consider the pages of a notebook, you have to decide how many pages you want, the type of paper, and whether you want them to be blank, or have lines or dots. The number of pages in a notebook tends to be a factor that is completely up to your discretion, though if you are planning on using it for extensive notes, you should find a product with a large number of pages.

For paper type, you can choose thick artistic paper, standard writing paper, waterproof paper, or even paper designed specifically for use with a fountain pen. Lined pages are the standard for most notebooks, providing a simple organizational system for your prose. Dotted pages can be used for mathematics and other graphing applications, but they may also be used for bullet journaling, where the grid layout is helpful for arranging your ideas. Blank pages are best for drawing, or even just making quickly scrawled notes that do not need any real semblance of structure.

Cover

Whether you write at an office desk, on public transportation, or reserve your written thoughts for the quiet of your home, the cover of your notebook is important. Hard covers that are typically made of thick cardboard are a good option if you like to write without a desk or some other hard surface, because the cover provides you with an adequate base. A soft cover notebook may have a thinner piece of cardboard that can fold up to go in your backpack, or a leather cover that feels smooth and looks great.

When you are sitting comfortably in your office chair, you can position yourself perfectly at the desk so that the cover of your notebook makes little real difference. However, you will also want to find a cover that has a great aesthetic appeal to you, possibly with a detailed graphic, an interesting pattern, or a bold color you like.

Binding

The binding of a notebook is what holds it together at the seams and can include staple binding, spiral rings, glue binding, and stitched bindings.

  • Staple binding is typically reserved for very small, thin notebooks, and while it is secure, this binding does not offer the same flexibility as the other three types.
  • Spiral ring binding is commonly seen with notebooks intended for study purposes. These bindings separate the notebook pages, but hold the entire notebook together with a metal spiral that loops through the holes on the interior margin of the pages.
  • Glue bindings are used for medium- to high-quality notebooks to give them the same appearance as a novel. The bindings are tight and secure, but book glue is not malleable after drying, so keep this in mind or you might end up pulling pages out of it accidentally. Glue bindings are still much more flexible and secure than staple bindings, however.
  • Stitched bindings are normally only seen on high-end products, or products that want to appear high-end. This difference is very important because a stitched binding can easily become loose, fall out, or even break altogether if the quality is low. These notebooks have a big advantage over glue bindings in that they can lay completely flat without risking damage to the notebook, allowing you to use the entire page.

Features

Notebooks and notepads can come with a range of different features including waterproofing, storage pockets, and other accessory resources.

  • Waterproofing is a must-have feature if you are going to be using your notepad in poor weather, on a boat, at a pool, or anywhere else it might get wet. Some of these notebooks take their protection a step further by allowing you to write on the pages even while they are still wet. Even if you are not constantly writing in the rain, waterproofing is a good option if you happen to be clumsy, preventing the risk of accidentally ruining the pages.
  • Storage pockets give you a place to keep your pens, pencils, erasers, and any other important writing equipment you need. They may also be designed to hold your phone so you won’t lose it. Storage pockets are a great feature, and the size and type of pocket varies between products so you can find the best notebook with pockets for your purposes.
  • Accessory resources like calendars, calculators, or even the periodic table of elements can be added to a notebook to make it more appealing for scheduling your daily activities, studying, and taking tests.

Our Top Picks

The top-rated products below were chosen for quality and price to help you choose from among the best notebooks and notepads for your writing habits.

Best Overall

The Best Notebooks Option: Cooleather Leather Journal Writing Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

This notebook can be used for a variety of situations. Take it to the office where the genuine leather cover, with a natural, distressed appearance will fit in with the business atmosphere, or carry it with you on your travels, securing the notebook with the leather strap closure. The leather notebook is 5.5 inches by 7.5 inches and comes with a pen so you can begin writing immediately.

Within the notebook are 120 lined sheets of two-sided paper that is appropriate for most pens and pencils, though very wet fountain pens will bleed through the fibers. The hand-stitched leather bindings of this notebook allow it to lay completely flat when you are using it so that you don’t have to try to write in an angled crease.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Notebooks Option: TOPS/Oxford 1-Subject Notebooks, 8" x 10-1/2"
Photo: amazon.com

Instead of getting a premium notebook for the students in your family to record their school notes, you can pick up six inexpensive notebooks that can be used just as effectively, without the high price. Each of the notebooks has 70 lined pages and comes with a differently colored cover made of thin, flexible cardboard. The variety of colors means you can easily sort them by school subject to keep your notes organized.

The notebooks measure 8 inches by 10.5 inches, providing space to record the pertinent information in your class. The pages also have red margin lines to help you organize your notes and to direct your writing away from the snag-resistant spiral coil binding. Each notebook has a standard three-hole punch pattern so that they can be added to a binder, and the pages are micro-perforated along the margin, allowing you to cleanly detach them if necessary.

Best for Note-Taking

The Best Notebooks Option: TOPS FocusNotes Note Taking System 1-Subject Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

This notebook has 100 sheets and measures 11 inches by 9 inches, including a snag-resistant spiral coil binding and perforated pages for easy removal. Designed with college and university students in mind, this notebook has a unique layout that encourages you to follow a three-step method to improve your notes.

The first step is to write focused and organized notes on the lined center of the page as you would with a regular notebook. Second, you will be writing cues in the side margin that you can use to recall your detailed notes. This can be a word, a phrase, or even a sketch if you want. The third step is to summarize the information from the whole page down in the summary section at the bottom of the page. Through these steps you record the information, create mental links, and re-record the information in your own summarized words, allowing you to process what you have written in three different ways.

Best for Artists

The Best Notebooks Option: conda 8.5"x11" Double-Sided Hardbound Sketchbook
Photo: amazon.com

Artists can use this notebook at home, school, work, or anywhere in between with the hard black cover that can double as a supportive surface when necessary. This notebook has 80 double-sided blank pages that are acid-free and unbleached, making them ideal for all dry media including pencil, pen, pastels, charcoal, sketching sticks, gel pen, and more, although markers may bleed through the paper.

This notebook measures 8.5 inches by 11 inches and it has a spiral coil binding to keep your pages secure. This type of binding also allows you to fully open the notebook and lay it flat, so you don’t have to work on a hump or crevice. When you are done with a sketch, or if you want to show it off, just tear the page along the perforated edge to remove it from your notebook.

Best for Traveling

The Best Notebooks Option: Robrasim Refillable Handmade Travelers Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

When you head out on public transportation or hop in the car to travel you will want a notebook like this one that looks great—with a genuine leather cover—and keeps your pages safe with an elastic cord that wraps completely around the notebook to ensure it stays closed. This notebook measures just 5.2 inches by 4 inches so you can slide it into a large pocket or your bag without issue.

The traveler’s notebook comes with three different 32-page, double-sided inserts that can be used together or separated when you run out of room in your notebook. The acid-free paper inserts include one lined, one blank, and one made of thick drawing paper. This notebook also features an attractive gift box and a zipper pocket to carry your smaller items, like documents or small papers.

Best for Lefties

The Best Notebooks Option: BookFactory NotRight (Left-Handed) Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

This left-handed notebook flips the usual orientation so that the spiral coil binding is on the right-hand side of the notebook, as though it were upside down. The front cover has a bright, attractive graphic that both supports left-handed pride and encourages you to open the first page towards the right.

When you turn the cover a blank page is ready for you to start and you won’t have to reach over the cover to begin, like you would with a standard notebook. The left-handed notebook has white, lined paper with a gray margin line to help you stay organized while you write. It measures 8.5 inches by 11 inches and has 120 pages.

Best Spiral Notebook

The Best Notebooks Option: Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Side Spiral Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

Spiral notebooks let you open the cover to work on a completely flat piece of paper because the bindings allow the pages to move independently of each other. With this 11-inch by 8.75-inch notebook, you get tough, impact-resistant spiral wire bindings to keep your notes secure. The notebook gives you a lot of space to take notes, with 42 double-sided pages that are both lined horizontally and dotted vertically.

Because the pages of this notebook are waterproof, it is also a really great option if you normally walk home from school, or if you work outside or on a boat. The pages passively repel water, sweat, grease, and mud, and the manufacturer says it could even survive a cycle in the laundry. However, regular water-based inks will bead up instead of sinking into the fibers, so you will need to use an all-weather pen or pencil to properly benefit from the waterproof features.

Best Pocket Notebook

The Best Notebooks Option: GLORYFIRE Waterproof Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

Unlike many other waterproof notebooks, this pocket-sized notebook has tearable graph paper, allowing you to pull out used notes, or to tear a piece off to give to someone else. The 3-inch by 5-inch notebook fits comfortably in most pockets and has a top-spiral binding, making it appropriate for either right- or left-handed individuals. This product comes with five GLORYFIRE Waterproof Notebooks.

The paper and cover of this notebook is waterproof, repelling water, sweat, grease, and mud with completely wood-based fibers. Each of the five notebooks has 48 double-sided pages, so you get a total of 480 pages. The notebook cover also has a PVC exterior that is hard but flexible so that it can protect your notes while still fitting in your pocket.

Best Dotted Notebook

The Best Notebooks Option: Lemome Dotted Bullet Notebook with Pen Loop
Photo: amazon.com

With this dotted notebook you can certainly begin a structured bullet journal, but you can also use the dots to add structure to your sketches, or to practice calligraphy. It measures 5 inches by 8.3 inches and the dots are evenly spaced 5mm or 0.2 inches apart. The notebook has a black leather cover that looks elegant, but does not draw undue attention, giving it the ideal aesthetic for a personal notebook.

Keep your pen close at hand with the elastic pen loop on the spine of this notebook, and fill up all 96 double-sided pages using almost any pen type. The acid-free paper resists damage from direct sunlight or rough winds, preserving your words or drawings. However, you will want to avoid the wettest fountain pen inks as they can bleed through the paper fibers.

Best Waterproof Notebook

The Best Notebooks Option: Elan Publishing The Indestructible Field Notebook
Photo: amazon.com

Don’t worry about your notebook getting ruined by rain, sweat, mud, grease, rips, shredding, or tearing with this four-pack of The Indestructible, Waterproof, Tearproof Notebook. The notebook is made with synthetic waterproofing material so that water runs right off the page. Despite this specialized design, you can write on the paper using an all-weather pen, a standard pencil, or just a regular ball-point pen.

The four notebooks each contain 24 double-sided pages of paper, totaling 192 pages. The pages are also tearproof so you won’t have to worry about them getting torn out, however, this also means that you will not be able to tear out pages should the need arise. The notebooks are 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches in size and each page is evenly lined so that you can easily organize your sentences.

FAQs About Your New Notebook

Before investing in a new notebook or notepad, take a look at these frequently asked questions and their answers below.

Q. How can you use a notebook effectively?

The way you use a notebook is mostly subjective. However, there are a few things almost anyone can do to use a notebook more effectively.

  • Write the date on the outside or the inside of the notebook to keep track of when you began using it. You may also want to date your entries so that you have a complete timeline.
  • Keep each subject in your notebook separate from the others to better organize your thoughts.
  • If you have no further use for a page, like a page where you wrote a grocery list, then tear it out instead of having it take up unnecessary space in your notebook.
  • If you are going to a big event, like a conference, start with a fresh notebook, instead of trying to cram all of your notes into one that is already half full.

Q. Can you bullet journal with a lined notebook?

Yes, you can bullet journal with any type of notebook paper. Bullet journaling actually refers to the method of organizing information with bullet points to create an informal list, so as long as you can draw a little bullet point and write beside it, you are bullet journaling.

Q. What is a grid notebook used for?

Grid paper can be used for classes that use graphs to represent information, but it can also be used to help you keep your writing properly aligned. However, the lines on regular grid paper can make your page difficult to read. To keep the same organizational benefit without worrying about the lines, the Dotted Bullet Notebook with Pen Loop only shows the dots where the grid lines would intersect.

Q. What can you do with old notebooks?

Depending on how you used your notebooks, you may want to throw them away, or keep the important journaling or notes that you made and store them safely on a bookshelf. You may even want to have a celebratory end-of-school-year bonfire. Just keep in mind that it’s never a bad idea to keep old notes, even if you don’t feel you’ll ever need them.