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Like many of you, I carry a small notebook around with me in which to scribble ideas, phone numbers, and such. I learned it from my father, who always carried one of those little vertical spiral-bound jobbies. (I still have the one that was with his things I received from the hospital after he died. It’s full of tiny drawings of tool stands and phone numbers of friends and tool suppliers.)

I’ll admit to having tried going digital back with the Palm was new, but I never was able to fully make the transition. While PDAs are great for phone books and calendars, I just can’t draw effectively in them. And Toolmongers need to draw.

So I made my way back to notebooks, and about three years ago I came across Moleskine’s offerings. Their small, hardcover notebook is easily the best one I’ve ever owned. It’s sized perfectly to slip in an inside coat pocket — or a jeans back pocket in the shop — and it’s incredibly durable. Read on past the jump for more of me gushing about it complete with photos.

There’s an elastic band built into the cover which can be used to keep the notebook closed, but I’ve fallen into the habit of wrapping it around the unused pages so that the Moleskine falls open to the page I’m currently using easily. It does lead to some fraying of the other pages, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.


Moleskine offers versions with lined pages, grid pages, or blank pages. I started out with the lined version, but eventually switched to grid because I tend to sketch ideas, and the lines help me. (Unlike Sean, I didn’t attend art school, and I’m a lousy artist. But with a good grid, I can sometimes get the idea across.) Sean appreciates the blank version more as he doesn’t like to be limited by pre-existing formats.


I’m extraordinarily hard on notebooks, and even the Moleskine’s binding gives way over time — especially if you jam the pocket clip of a pen in it like I do. But I’ve learned that if I apply a small strip of gaffers’ tape to the backing every time I pick up a new one, they easly last as long as it takes me to fill them — about seven months to a year.


I keep the ones I’ve already filled stacked up in a desk drawer for reference. I often refer to them to resolve questions like, “Who was that guy we talked to about plastic casting last year?”

Moleskine’s advertising schtick calls these “the legendary notebook used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries” and includes a picture of one that served as Vincent van Gogh’s sketchbook from 1888-1890. (Apparently he doodles slower than I do.) Name dropping aside, I thought I’d pass on my find.

Buy hey don’t just listen to me — check out what others are doing with Moleskines.

If you’re addicted to notebooks like I am, you might want to give these a try. They’re available from tons of sources online, and you can find ’em at most Borders book stores and some Container Stores. Street pricing starts around $10.

Moleskine Notebooks [Corporate Site]
Street Pricing [Froogle]
My Favorite Moleskine Via Amazon (Small Squared) [What’s this?]
Sean’s Favorite Moleskine Via Amazon (Small Plain) [What’s this?]


18 Responses to The Best Notebook I’ve Ever Owned

  1. Stuey says:

    Wow. Moleskine products take up 9 out of the top 13 best selling office products on amazon.

    On amazon it says free shipping with a $50 order and $10 off a $100 order.

    I’m going to head out to Barnes & Noble now to see if I can pick one up from there. I could use a small notebook, but I also need a larger letter-sized “executive-style” book.

    You guys carry this in your back pockets – what type of pen do you carry around with you? Parker jotters might fit with these perfectly.

  2. nrChris says:

    Glad to see others that I respect eschewing digital for a traditional pad. I always tell my co-workers, who chide me for being a gadget geek, that the head to head test that keeps me with paper is as follows:

    Your PDA goes under one of my tires. My pad goes under another. I’ll drive over and see who wins!

    Basically this is the only area where I don’t have a bleeding-edge gadget. And won’t.

  3. David P says:

    Hell yes! I’ve been using 5×8 graph-paper cahiers (80 page) for the past year or so. They’re amazing. I recommend using the thinner ones, so if you lose it or destroy it you don’t lose years of your project notes.

    I used to use the speckled composition books, but Moleskines look a lot more professional. Plus the off-white paper is really easy on the eyes, and it makes you feel like Da Vinci or something like that.

  4. sizod says:

    Moleskine notebooks are in my tool arsenal. I have the grided notebook, the music sheet one, and the storyboarding moleskine.

  5. Stuey says:

    I picked up 3 ruled cahiers for my pocket, and a 5*8 notebook for meeting. They also had larger cahiers which might make for nice (albeit pretty costly) lab notebooks. Although I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay $5 a piece when a marble notebook costs 25 times less during back to school sales.

    These would probably be great as vacation journals!

  6. Bowen says:

    Right now I’ve got a small Moleskine lined notebook w. pocket and a large graph paper notebook w. pocket on me, in addition to my older, but very functional Ipaq.

    Both are excellent, but each has very different functions, as there is stuff you just can’t do with a PDA that you can do with two pages of graph paper 🙂

  7. Brad says:

    Haven’t picked up a MoleSkin yet, but been thinking about it. If you get them at Barnes and Noble, look for some flat pens to go along with them. According to reviews I’ve read, that’s the way to go.


  8. Brent says:

    I have one I use for work. Comes in very handy for those jotted down meeting notes.

  9. Cowboyonahorse says:

    I’m a writer (and fledgling tool guy; I work with kids and kids + power tools = hiliarity), so I know this brandname. Gorgeous notebooks, fit in a pocket, and there’s a little flap for a picture of your wife. Great gift, great notebook.

  10. Paul H says:

    As well as notebooks, Moleskine make a range of Memo Pockets that are expanding files in miniature.

    They’re great for storing all the dockets and vouchers that would otherwise clog up your wallet. The smallest is the same size as the notebook shown above and a perfect fit for your trouser cargo pocket.

  11. Michael W. says:

    I use the same small gridline paper one that you use, Chuck. The Bench that I showed you all earlier came from a small drawing that originated in my moleskine. I find the gridline very helpful in making quick scale drawings of furniture (and detailing) for customers (even though I went to art school like Sean). I’ll be using mine tomorrow morning to sketch out a loft ladder railing for a client. I’ve been using cloth hockey stick tape instead of gaffer’s tape (you should do a mini review on gaffer’s tape so people not in the know can learn about it, it’s great stuff)

    I carried them in my back pocket, until I got tired of them disintegrating. Now I carry them in my shirt (or shop apron) pocket.

    I carried a Handspring Visor for several years, but also had a problem drawing effectively with it and eventually went back to paper.

    Yeah paper! the best tool hands down!

  12. KaiserM715 says:

    The prefect writing utensil to accompany a pocket notebook would a Fisher Bullet Pen http://www.spacepen.com/ The pen cartridge is pressurized so it will write upside down and even works underwater. The small size makes them very easy to carry in a pocket.

  13. Daniel says:

    I started carrying one not long ago for photo notes. I got it on sale at the local campus bookstore. I’ve been very pleased with the way it’s held up so far and for $3 i wish I’d bought more.

  14. Brian C. says:

    I love my Moleskine. I find it VERY handy to use hocky tape(the cloth kind) to make a pen/pencil holder along the edge of the binding. That way you always have a writing tool!

  15. Mark says:

    I know this is an old blog, but another good notebook source is Levenger. They have the 3×5 card approach to notes and a nice line of Circa notebooks.

  16. Cynthia says:

    These are great, especially if you are technology impaired or if you hate using hand-held electronic devices. Drawing and doodling are almost impossible to do so why not slip one of these into your back pocket? It sure beats carrying around all of those little pieces of paper. If you need to organize it, check out this easy Moleskine hack to divide your notebook into sections: http://journalingarts.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/organize-your-moleskine-notebook-into-sections-without-tabs/

  17. DustyPockets says:

    I am also a great lover of Moleskine notebooks. I first read about them on Lifehacker.com several years ago, and still use them from time to time. But for work any more I use a 3×5 index card case, great for jotting down notes and drawings and easily discarded if needed for one time dimensions in the field.


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