The 10 Best Journals
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in June of 2016. Even in today's technology-driven age, there are some things that are best committed to paper, rather than a computer. These quality journals provide the perfect portable repository for writing of any kind, from your daily diary and brief observations to poems and song lyrics to shopping lists, or even a record of your goals and bucket list items to keep you motivated. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
June 18, 2021:
There aren't often many significant developments in the field of journaling, but there are two distinct sides of the coin to consider when picking a journal. Options such as the Rhodia Black Webnotebook and Field Notes Kraft value simplicity and construction quality above all else, and are also relatively compact. On the other end of the spectrum, notebooks like the Moonster Travel Diary, which is handmade from real high-quality leather, add a special air every time you open them. For what it's worth, we haven't changed any of our recommendations recently, and are confident that one of our current choices will fill your needs, whether you prefer form, function, or both.
January 24, 2020:
Journaling is a timeless activity that has many forms, from keeping a diary and goal-setting to sketching and jotting down quick observations. With that in mind, we arranged a diverse list with something to cater to a range of needs. We prioritized journals that open flat, with sturdy, acid-free paper, eco-friendly materials, hardwearing covers, and helpful add-ons like pockets, bookmarks, dividers, and elastic closures. None of these options are completely secure, so if you're looking to write sensitive information or just want to keep your notes from prying eyes, check out our list of journals with locks.
The dotted paper of the Rhodia Black Webnotebook and Lemome Natural make them excellent options for bullet journaling, while the Field Notes Kraft are best used for quick thoughts while on the move. The graph paper in the Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover A5 is ideal for those who like things neat and orderly, and the unprinted pages of the Rustic Town Vintage Handmade Diary are perfect for those who don't want any lines, dots, or squares restraining their prose.
Today we said goodbye to the SamutNote Handmade NoteBook, Samsill Antique Classic, and Ghost Paper Notebook to make way for three new compelling items. One is the previously mentioned Lemome Natural, which uses eco-friendly cork for its cover and comes in at a very budget-friendly price. We also added the Q&A a Day, a journal ideal for those who don't like freewriting and prefer short prompts. It's great for tracking your personal progress and putting things into perspective and can serve as a keepsake down the line.
Finally, we added the SohoSpark Sunrise, a high-quality option made to last for years that can be refilled with fresh notebooks as soon as you've filled the previous one. It's ideally sized to toss in a backpack, purse, or carry-on, has tough paper that won't bleed, and a handsome vegan leather cover.
Gemma Suede Keepsake Perfect for the stylish minimalist, the Gemma journal sports a cream-colored, angled suede cover that folds over and secures via a snap closure. It has a thoughtfully integrated pen loop and 192 lined pages. The interior notebook is removable, allowing the cover to serve you for years to come. anthropologie.com
Etsy Personalized Journals The intimate nature of journals and their content makes them great for personalization. If you're looking for a customized diary for yourself or a gift for a friend or loved one, you'll find hundreds of options at Etsy. Take your pick from various styles and designs, cover materials, closure types, and colors. etsy.com
The Great Miracle Of A Book
They contain more than just words, and ink, and information; they're like time capsules, like living things by the time they're full of our spirit.
A journal is an intensely personal thing. I know I spent the bulk of my youth scribbling into my journal poems and song lyrics that would have been embarrassing to reveal at the time, and that could probably end my career as a writer if they surfaced today. Sure, if you have old journals with sensitive information in them you could just recycle them and be done with it, but this gets us back to the personal nature of the books. They contain more than just words, and ink, and information; they're like time capsules, like living things by the time they're full of our spirit.
In a purely physical sense, they're pretty simple. Bound books have become a part of the quotidian landscape, something that I hesitate to say we take for granted because that even seems like it gives our regard for their novelty too much credit. We barely see books for what they are anymore.
In truth, their construction is nothing short of miraculous: paper manufactured from felled trees that were ground to a pulp and refined to smoothly receive and hold ink, bindings of string or glue masterfully worked into the edges of the pages and the cover, and the cover itself, hewn and processed from the flesh of animals or the pulp of the same trees torn down for the pages within.
For all their perfection, even after the long journey of their manufacturing, a journal lies incomplete on the shelf until you put your pen to it. For those purposes, different journals offer you different layout options like ruled or unlined, refined or raw pages, and more.
Put Yourself In The Pages
My father was a bridge engineer for most of his professional life, so even though I pursued writing and the arts as opposed to mathematics, I inherited his affinity for graph paper, and I can barely write in any journal or notebook without it. My handwriting's bad enough that if I decided I wanted to go back to regular, ruled journals, it'd likely be illegible even to myself.
These also tend to have much more secure elastic closures to them, so you can tote small papers in your journals without fear of them slipping out somewhere along the way.
Your writing style will go far in determining the style of journal that suits you. Some of the journals on our list contain features for the more right-brained writers among us, like tables of contents that you can fill out yourself for better organization or entire systems of goal-setting and achievement guidelines.
I've always romanticized poets and writers of the romantic and early transcendentalist movements, writers whose works felt raw and unencumbered by the trappings of their society's bourgeois ideals. These were artists who wrote in fields, in the rain, and probably naked. Well, in my hyperbolic mind they did.
As such, I was also always drawn to leather-bound journals with loose leather and string ties. There's a rustic quality to this kind of notebook that's irresistible to the romantic writer. The pages in these kinds of journals are usually unrefined, however, so they can make sloppy handwriting even worse. Their bindings are also usually a little less secure than the more mechanically-produced journals on our list, so their long-term durability might be questionable.
The more refined journals on our list offer you a much more professional appearance, which can be vital if you want to keep your journal with you in an office setting or some other professional sphere. These also tend to have much more secure elastic closures to them, so you can tote small papers in your journals without fear of them slipping out somewhere along the way.
The End Of The World Made Text
If you surveyed baby boomers and members of Generation X about the generations coming up after theirs, you'd hear a lot about the dehumanization of mankind, about the internet and cell phones spelling the inevitable demise of the species, as we slowly but surely cordon ourselves off into smaller and smaller worlds until there's nothing left but divided individuals communicating electronically through avatars.
The earliest bound books appeared in the first century CE, and could have been considered journals of sorts in that they were all hand-written.
It turns out that this kind of doomsday thinking is nothing new, and that it reaches back at least as far as the development of the written language. When the written word began to gain popularity in Greece, Socrates was out and about, philosophizing against it among so many other things. He warned that the written word would isolate us, and that it would vastly reduce the human capacity for memory recall and logical thought. Sound familiar?
Fortunately, Plato had a handful of journals at his disposal that he used to record all of the great thinker's works and thoughts, creating an entire branch of philosophy that might not have survived through to today without being written down.
The earliest bound books appeared in the first century CE, and could have been considered journals of sorts in that they were all hand-written. For the next 1,400 years, book binding took place mainly at monasteries among monks transcribing religious texts. It wasn't until the printing press arrived in 1447 that bound books contained printed pages, which eventually led to more refined techniques for book binding and the higher quality journals we are free to enjoy.