The 7 Best Notebooks for Journaling, Writing, and Classroom Note-Taking (2019 Review)

The 7 Best Notebooks for Journaling, Writing, and Classroom Note-Taking (2019 Review)

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Having the right notebook allows you to get things done, and helps you in your goal of being more organized, whether you're at home, school, or work.

People keep notebooks to jot down ideas, observations, and things that they find meaningful from their experiences. Others use them to record their grocery lists, future plans, and lecture notes, or as journals.

Furthermore, people have a wide variety of preferences for the type of notebook they use. Some are passionate about the size of their notebooks, while others are more concerned that the paper does not allow bleed-through during moments of writing.

Some people prefer writing on blank paper, while others are only comfortable penning their words on a dot-grid system.

Just as the purposes of notebooks vary, notebooks themselves come in all shapes and sizes.

In this post, we’ve reviewed the seven best notebooks on the market for journaling, writing, and classroom note-taking.

But before we get to the featured products for each category, let’s first talk about the importance of having the right notebook for your note-taking needs.

Don't have time to read the entire review?

If you're a busy person who doesn't have time to read this entire review, we've simplified everything. Here is a table that shows you a quick rating of the best notebooks for journaling, writing, and classroom note-taking.

Wins for
Our Rating

Best overall, quality thick paper (no bleed-through), reasonably priced, ideal for bullet journal and planners

Best for classroom note-taking, one subject per notebook, wired spiral locks prevent snags

Best for heavy duty, all weather use; waterproof, greaseproof; ideal for field notes

Best for graphic journals; pages work well for sketching and drawing, as well as for note-taking

Best hi-tech notebook that gives you a pen-and-paper experience while allowing you to save your notes in the Cloud.

Best notebook for laboratory work; carbonless pages for convenience, reasonable price compared with lab notebooks sold in most school bookstores

Best for writing and diary keeping; its attractive design makes it ideal for gifting; a portion of the proceeds is donated to an African charity

Why Is Having the Right Notebook Important?

While there are a lot of reasons to keep a notebook, one thing they all have in common is that they keep a record for you. Whether you use your notebook to write down inspiring things that you see, take notes in class, record your plans for the day, or keep track of your eating and exercise habits, a notebook will always represent a snapshot of your life.

If you are a student, physically writing notes in class can contribute to your academic success. Students who use computers in class to take notes rather than writing them down in a notebook are more easily distracted and often less interested in course material—and distraction tends to be the enemy of productivity. You will want to find the best paper notebooks for college to help you be more productive, because this will prompt you to turn your ideas into actions.

When you take the time to hand-write notes in class, you will also gain a better retention of the material because you have to focus on it while you are writing it down. Research shows that students who write their notes in a notebook think more intensely about the learning material as they write it down because of their increased focus.

Taking hand-written notes also immerses you in the learning process and helps you understand the information more effectively. Research suggests that writing notes actually improves your ability to comprehend information on a deeper level.

You can also process information more efficiently when writing notes than when typing them, because your brain can often go into autopilot when you are typing.

This requires you to relearn the information when you are trying to study, whereas if you have written the notes, you have already gotten a head start on your studying. Further, studies show that pen-to-paper studying helps increase memory and learning.

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A notebook will always represent a snapshot of your life.

Finally, writing by hand slows down your thought processes to allow you to build creativity and come up with new ideas. Research has even suggested that writing by hand can lead to a more mindful and creative frame of mind while studying. Promoting creativity helps you retain information more effectively.

Effective note-taking with the right notebook can help you achieve these benefits in several ways. First, the act of writing can improve your active listening skills, keeping your mind engaged throughout the lecture. As you are more engaged, your attention span will increase so you won't lose focus and start daydreaming.

By staying involved in the information, you can also create a roadmap wherein learning material is top priority and information can be discarded or set aside.

You can do this by picking out the main points of a lesson or jotting down concepts that you don't understand and need to spend more time researching. Being able to break down the information content into easily comprehensible parts makes lessons easier to assimilate.

Once you learn what works best for you in terms of organizing your notes and ideas, you can be more creative with your learning. Because everyone has a different learning style, once you figure out what yours is, adding creativity to your study habits can help you retain the information better.

So now that you are convinced of the benefits of having a notebook, how do you go about choosing which one will work best for you?

How to Choose the Best Notebook

One of the greatest things about keeping a notebook is that it is personal to you. You can design it however you want to and put any content into it that you wish. It is a place where you can be creative, a place to take risks, and a place to enjoy yourself.

No matter its size or shape, or whether it flips up like a reporter’s notepad or opens like a book, make sure that you get a notebook that you’d like to use. However, considering that you probably want to take your notebook along with you every day, you may want to avoid clunky notebooks that will be cumbersome to transport.

You also want a notebook that will be able to withstand everyday use with binding that is sturdy so the pages stay in place. For serious note-taking and journaling, notebooks with stitched binding are highly recommended.

There are many different types of notebooks that you can use, you just have to figure out which kind works best for you. Spiral notebooks are usually inexpensive and come in many sizes, but if you choose one of these notebooks, you will want to make sure that the pages don't accidentally come out of it. If you want a sturdier notebook, a composition notebook is bound more like a book and has a thicker cover on it.

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Choose a notebook that will be able to withstand everyday use with binding that is sturdy so the pages stay in place.

Choosing the type of paper that you want to use depends on your note-taking needs. Some people prefer ruled paper, while others want a dot-grid style, or even blank paper. Note-takers usually prefer ruled notebooks, while people who do bullet journals are often comfortable with dot-grid, and sketchers take notes better on blank pages.

No matter what style paper you have, you will want to make sure that it does not allow ink to bleed or ghost through the pages. There are many options for paper notebooks to fit your preferences and uses. You can even buy specialty notebooks that have waterproof pages that were designed originally to be used by the military.

It is important to recognize your purpose for your notebook before buying one. Do you want something in line with executive notebooks, or do you want something a bit more casual?

Hopefully this guide either helped you pinpoint the type of notebook that you need or helped you rule out some options that won't be useful for you. Now let's look at some of the best options on the market today.

The 7 Best Notebooks for Journaling, Writing, and Classroom Note-Taking

1) Essentials Dot Matrix Notebook, A5 Size

This is the best overall notebook, offering high-quality, thick paper (100 gsm) with no bleed-through at a reasonable price. It is ideal for both bullet journals and planners. This notebook offers many features that are found on more expensive notebooks, such as a durable cover, a back pocket, a ribbon bookmark, and an elastic band to keep it securely closed.

The high-quality cover resists stains, tearing, and moisture, and the back pocket keeps any loose papers, tickets, receipts, stamps, stickers, business cards, etc. that you want to keep on hand located conveniently inside your notebook (and secured with the addition of the elastic band). The ribbon helps you keep your place in your notebook so you can quickly pick up wherever you last left off.

This classic notebook comes with 192 high-quality pages featuring a pale gray 5mm dot grid interior that allows you to design every page however you wish. It is perfect for beginners and seasoned note-takers alike.

  • Heavy paper does not allow ink to bleed through.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • Binding quality is superb.
  • Does not come with an index or page numbers.
  • Only available in black.
  • Pages sometimes fall out.

This is the best option for classroom note-taking. You can use one notebook per subject, and they are inexpensive, so you can easily buy a replacement if you run out of space. The wired spiral locks prevent snags from occurring in your bag.

These notebooks are college-ruled and have a three-hole punch so they can easily be put inside of a binder. You can distinguish which notebook you assign for which subject because of the variety of colored covers that come in this pack. The six colors include light pink, purple, yellow, light blue, green, and orange.

Each notebook contains 70 sheets of paper that can be written both on the front and back. This should be sufficient space for the notebook to last you for the duration of a course.

  • Great for students.
  • Won't snag in your bag.
  • Comes in a variety of colors.
  • There is a large label on the front of the notebook.
  • Ink may bleed through pages.
  • The pages may tear out too easily.

These are the best notebooks for heavy-duty, all-weather use. They can withstand tough environmental conditions such as rain, mud, snow, sweat, oil, and grease because they are waterproof and greaseproof. Their compact size and durability make them ideal for field notes. The pages have a unique moisture shield that allows you to write on them, regardless if the paper is wet or dry. You can easily use pencil, pen, or crayon on this paper.

This rugged writing surface was created almost 100 years ago to stand up to rugged weather elements. They come in a pack of three black 3" x 5" top-spiral notebooks, which are small enough to easily fit into your pocket and tough enough to survive rough conditions.

These notebooks have a non-glare gray paper that is easily legible, even in bright sunlight. The wire binding is resistant to impact and will not become misshapen. The notebooks have a polydura cover that protects your notes from scratches and smears. These notebooks are recyclable as well, making them environmentally friendly.

  • Waterproof, great for outdoor use.
  • Small and convenient to carry into the field.
  • Heavy-duty.
  • Slightly expensive.
  • Some find these notebooks to be flimsy.
  • Cannot be submerged in water.

This rustic leather notebook is the best option for writing and diary keeping. It has an attractive design that makes it ideal for gifting, and a portion of the proceeds is donated to Tehila, an African charity in Zambia that works to prevent cruelty to children. The company behind this product believes in making products that can benefit the world in some way. This notebook, along with all of their other products, is ethically sourced and fairly-trade certified.

This has an antique and vintage feel to it, with its leather-bound cover and creamy, textured, unlined paper. The paper is made from recycled cotton paper, making this a sustainable product. The cover is 100% hand-made from crazy-horse leather, which has a natural tan with oils added to preserve it. However, this means that these notebooks vary in color, making no two journals exactly alike. Further, the leather gives this notebook a rich, earthy scent. The soft leather with a distressed finish will further improve with age, and will last for many years.

Writing in this journal is easy because the paper prevents ink from bleeding. The paper can handle a soft B pencil, a variety of different inks, and even watercolor. It comes with 240 blank pages measuring 7” x 5”, making it the perfect size to take with you on the go. This is the best leather-bound notebook.

  • Attractive and great for gifting.
  • Proceeds donated children in Africa.
  • Each leather notebook is unique.
  • Some users experience bleeding in the paper.
  • Cannot remove pages.
  • Does not lay completely flat, making it difficult to write on one side, depending on your dominant hand.

This option is the best notebook for laboratory work. It is one of the best paper notebooks for work because it has carbonless pages for convenience and is sold at a reasonable price compared with lab notebooks sold in most school bookstores.

The brown cover is made of sturdy pressboard and has a stitched binding to ensure the pages are secure. Inside, this notebook has 100 4x4 quad carbonless numbered sets of white and yellow paper, so you always have a copy of what you're writing. The second sheet in each set is perforated for easy removal. This notebook also opens up flat, so writing in it is easy, regardless if you are right- or left-handed.

The fabric on the binding is water resistant, protecting it from water or spills in the lab. The cardboard cover is also water resistant. This journal even includes a table of contents, and only has grid numbers and page numbers on the carbonless copy pages.

  • Best notebook for lab work.
  • Provides you with a carbonless copy of each page.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • The page divider in the back is difficult to remove.
  • Some find the writing to bleed or leak through pages.
  • Some find the carbon copy pages to be messy.

This is the best high-tech notebook that gives you a pen-and-paper experience while allowing you to save your notes in the Cloud. The pages in this notebook feel like paper, but they’re made out of a material that’s fully erasable using a damp cloth when you write using a specific type of ink (Rocketbook suggests Pilot FriXions).

You can write notes as you typically do and wipe them off when you are finished. However, before erasing your work, you can file your paper in a digital filing system that you can later access using a QR code. You just need to take a picture of your notes using the app and then assign it to one of seven folders in the app, Dropbox, Evernote, or an email account of your choice.

So while you are able to take handwritten notes, you can have access to them for the long term because they will be backed up into a digital system. This notebook comes with 36 reusable pages. You need to allow the specialized ink to dry for 15 seconds for it to be able to bond to the specialty paper. This environmentally friendly notebook can be used forever.

  • Best high-tech option.
  • You can save your notes indefinitely.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Some people find the designated pens do not work well.
  • Heat can negatively impact the ink.
  • Images may scan blurry.

This is the best option for a graphic journal because the pages work well for sketching and drawing, as well as for note-taking. It comes in a timeless, simple, versatile design.

This is a popular choice for everyday use because it can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It comes with an elastic pen holder to ensure you always have a pen when you have an idea that you need to record.

The thick, premium paper holds up well, making it perfect to use for writing and drawing, no matter what kind of pen you are using. There are 90 sheets in this notebook, allowing users to have 180 pages to write on.

  • Perfect pages for sketching and drawing.
  • Ink does not bleed.
  • The cover has a nice leather feel.
  • Elastic band used to hold the notebook closed tends to come undone.
  • Paper and cover may separate from the binder.
  • Some people find there is not enough room to write on the pages.


The products reviewed today are all the best in the categories for which they are used.

However, Essentials Dot Matrix Notebook, A5 Size stands out because it performs well for the different purposes of keeping a notebook, and because of its quality and reasonable price. 

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