My Latest Work Notebooks

I’ve almost always had a sharp disparity between my preferred notebooks for personal use and my preferred work notebooks. My personal notebooks are always pocket sized, with plain, dotted, or grid pages, usually hardcover. But my work notebooks are usually none of those things.

I’ve written about some of my work notebooks before. In my previous position, I attended tons of meetings and often had letter-size handouts to refer to, so I liked notebooks that would fit those sheets. But I still sometimes used slightly smaller notebooks, such as a Doane Paper notebook, or one from Appointed. Now that I have a different job where I work from home, my notebook preferences have shifted a bit… but sometimes I surprise myself in terms of whether I like or dislike what I have chosen to use.

The first notebook I used for this job was a Printfresh notebook that I reviewed in this post. I used it because it seemed like a good size for my desk, where I have somewhat limited space due to a convertible stand-up desk with a keyboard and two monitors. I liked the notebook well enough when I reviewed it, though it didn’t speak to me as something that was “my kind of notebook.” The cover is fun but quite bright, and the paper is lined. But I liked that it had a folder inside, and a wire-o binding. And the paper quality was pretty good– very satisfying with my usual gel ink pens. I ended up using every page of this notebook, quite happily.

When I was starting to think about what notebook I’d use next, I couldn’t find anything suitable in my stash. I wanted something with a wire-o binding so I could flip the cover around to the back, and I didn’t have a single one that was larger than pocket size. I wanted something a little larger than A5 size. I wanted smooth dot grid paper. I ended up deciding to treat myself to a Mnemosyne notebook from Jet Pens.

my two latest work notebooks

I’ve been seeing these notebooks around for a while at Kinokuniya and other retailers, so much so that I feel as if I must have owned or reviewed one before. But I haven’t, so I was excited to try this one. It really did seem like a treat to pick out and actually buy a work notebook that I wanted to use– all my work notebooks for the past 20 years have been standard office supply closet items or leftover samples I reviewed for this blog, mostly things I probably wouldn’t have bought for myself. I never felt as strongly about my work notebooks as I do about my personal journals and sketchbooks, so this didn’t bother me much.

pages in notebooks

But now that I’m using this notebook I actually chose, I’m not sure I’m going to love it as much as I thought! Although I always talk about how I dislike lined notebooks, I’m starting to think they are actually better for my work note-taking. For a notebook that is sitting on my desk, the wider spacing of lines makes things easier to read, and it accommodates the somewhat messier handwriting I use when I am scribbling notes during meetings and calls. The Mnemosyne notebook has a typical 5mm dot spacing and it just feels a little cramped.

I liked the design of the Mnemosyne pages, which have a wide header with a box for the date, but it’s actually more space than I need. I tend to just date my to-do list pages, and then just add dates to other notes throughout the text, so that huge header is just wasted space. And the larger overall page size (7.25 x 10″) is nice in a way, but because of my desk layout, it feels a little more crowded. The smaller Printfresh notebook (7 x 8.75″) fit better.

printfresh work notebook
mnemosyne work notebook

So I have to admit I’m a little disappointed with the Mnemosyne notebook. It is well-made, with a plastic cover that should be quite durable. The paper quality is great. The design is very cool. But it isn’t making me as happy as I thought it would. I’ll continue to use it til the end, I’m sure, but I’ll have to come up with something else for my next work notebook. I could maybe try a different Mnemosyne notebook, as they have some other formats. Anyone have any other suggestions?

Oscar’s Sketchbook

This is a really interesting sketchbook, now part of the collection of the National Museum of Australia. It belonged to a young Aboriginal man named Oscar. The article is a bit vague about the circumstances of Oscar’s life– it sounds like he could have been a slave, or indentured servant, or at best an orphan who was compelled to become a child laborer in the 1880s gold rush in Australia, as many Indigenous people were. The only thing that is really known is that he was a talented artist, and his “boss,” Augustus Henry Glidden, gave him a notebook to draw in, which became part of a museum collection.

Oscar’s sketchbook contains drawings by a young Aboriginal man who grew up in Far North Queensland in the late 1880s.

Oscar’s pencil drawings range from scenes of traditional ceremonies, to interactions with Europeans and places he visited in the surrounding area. It is a rare record of life in the late 19th century from an Aboriginal person’s perspective.

Read more at Oscar’s Sketchbook. You can see the whole sketchbook here: National Museum of Australia

Architects’ Sketchbooks as Visual Conversation

Architects’ sketchbooks are always some of my favorites to look at. And having worked with an architect and contractor on a renovation of my own home, the quote below really resonated with me, as I found myself frequently pulling out my own notebooks to draw ideas that I couldn’t otherwise explain!

From architect to contractor, to carpenter, to engineer and back again, sketches are passed like sentences to make sense of something together. Translation and interpretation are embedded in conversations had through drawing, mulling a building over with multiple hands and multiple pencils, lead or pixels. By holding on to these visual conversations past a project’s completion, including them in architecture criticism, we can understand building with more rigour and depth.

The article this quote is from also shows off some very cool sketchbooks by Jan de Vylder, among others:

Read more at The Architectural Review: The Open Sketchbook: Building Ideas

Notebook Routines

A post by Stuart at Nero’s Notes got me thinking about notebook routines. Not just which notebooks are used, but habits of how and when you use them.

Stuart talks about his daily journaling routine: each morning, he gets up early, meditates, then writes in his Hobonichi Techo. I love the idea of this kind of structure– a page a day diary, that you write in every day, at the same time. But I never do this myself! (Even when I used my beloved Nolty Daily Book, I had a hard time keeping to a routine of how to use it.)

I have at least 3 daily-carry notebooks going at all times. Most days, I do write in each of them, but without any particular habits as to time or place. Sometimes I’ll write in my journal (most often a squared Moleskine, or plain or dotted Bindewerk linen journal) a bit in the morning, but it hasn’t been that often–I’m trying to make this more of a habit. On days when I’m working, I might take a short break and write a bit, but not that often. The evenings or before bed are probably the time when I do most of my journaling.

Then there’s my Nolty planner. I’ll jot things throughout the day, whenever I think to do it, which can be at any time. I record what I’ve eaten and what exercise I’ve done, and keep to-do lists and grocery lists in this planner. I also note books to read, movies to watch, music to check out. And I use the Gantt chart to track various habits, like whether I’ve exercised each day, taken a vitamin, called my mother, etc. I often pick up this notebook right before bedtime to make sure I complete my log of that day.

My sketchbook goes through phases where I’m good about drawing every day, and then sometimes I’ll let it go for a while. Drawing is another thing that doesn’t necessarily happen at a certain time, but it’s most often in the evening hours after work, or on weekend afternoons. I almost always have a Moleskine sketchbook going, as well as a watercolor sketchbook for the occasional painting.

daily carry notebooks

Now that I work from home, I’ve formed some new habits, such as taking a walk every morning before breakfast and then again at lunchtime. Maybe as the weather gets warmer, I’ll allow myself to stop in a peaceful spot somewhere on my walk and do a little writing or sketching, to see if I could combine those two habits.

How about you, readers? What are your daily notebook routines or habits?

Pineider Boston Notebook Review

Today we’re taking a look at the Pineider Boston notebook. I forget where I was poking around online when I first saw that Pineider made some cute pocket notebooks– I think it was some luxury goods site. Pineider certainly qualifies as a luxury brand: their small leather wallets start at close to $200, and go up fast. They also make beautiful leather bags, elegant items for your desk, and fancy pens and stationery. Everything is very refined and swanky, right down to their logo, which notes that the company was founded in Firenze in 1774.

pineider boston notebook front

Interestingly, Pineider’s pocket size notebooks are not that much more expensive than some other upscale brands, ranging from 14 to 28 Euros. At the lower end of the price range, you’re getting a single stitched signature notebook with a “regenerated leather” cover. At the higher end, the Milano notebook has 96 pages between saffiano leather covers with hand-painted edges, and stamped metallic monogramming is included. I would have liked to try the Milano, but I found an Amazon seller offering the Pineider Boston notebook for a reasonable price, so I decided to give it a go!

The Pineider Boston notebook has a textile cover which they say is intended to minimize its environmental footprint. It’s also vegan. When I took the shrinkwrap off mine, I was taken aback by the texture– it’s almost suedelike, and doesn’t feel like any other cloth covered notebook I own. The cover is flexible, so this notebook would feel comfortable in a pocket.

The packaging is lovely– the paper band has such a classic look to it, and seems to be very finely printed, with tiny, sharp lines that look like what you’d find on an old postage stamp, or currency printed from engraved plates.

The Pineider Boston notebook comes in various colors, but the ribbon marker is always green, a Pineider trademark, I guess. I love the orange, it’s a nice smoky shade that is easy on the eyes. Shown below next to a red Moleskine for comparison.

The inside cover has more brand logos and space for contact details. There is a slim paper tuck pocket inside back cover– I’m not crazy about this kind of pocket as they are pretty useless for anything more than a business card or two.

The notebook does not have an elastic closure, which might come in handy. The spine is a bit stiff so it’s not that easy to open it flat, and once you’ve bent it all the way open, the cover stays open a bit.

pineider notebook watermarked paper

Inside, the notebook contains watermarked 80 gsm paper, lined, with the Pineider logo at the bottom. The pages have square corners, which is very unusual, especially since the cover is rounded.

The paper is smooth, bright white. and it’s great with fountain pens. No feathering, and I got some nice shading with my flex nib. Show-through is what you’d expect for a paper of this weight, but there was no bleed except with really wet markers. This notebook is too nice to be desecrated with an Accu-liner or a Super Sharpie anyway!

pineider boston notebook fountain pen test
pineider boston notebook back of pen test page

There is a lot to love about this notebook– the paper is great, the design is lovely, and it feels like a well-made, high-quality product. I wish it came with unlined, squared, or dotted paper. I also wish the spine was more flexible so it would open flat more easily. It’s a bit expensive for a Moleskine alternative, but if you want a fountain pen friendly notebook that looks elegant and stands out from the pack, it’s a very attractive option.

The list price for the Pineider Boston notebook is 18 Euros. (Larger sizes and other colors are available.) I bought mine on Amazon, where I paid $26.77 including tax, with free shipping.

Fabio Ricci Notebook Review

I’ve written about a few Fabio Ricci notebooks in the past. This Turkish notebook brand makes some of the Blackwing branded notebooks I also reviewed, and I really liked one of their notebooks I bought in Istanbul. Today’s Fabio Ricci notebook was part of my quest to try every Moleskine clone in the universe. It’s actually one of the Moliest mole clones I’ve found.

The first thing that hit me when I opened this notebook, though, was not like a Moleskine at all. The Fabio Ricci notebook has a weird smell, sort of like waxy crayons with a touch of BO. After a while the BO note faded but the waxy crayon smell remained.

The exterior of the Fabio Ricci notebook is a red just a bit brighter than the shade currently used by Moleskine, though older Moleskines have a similarly bright, almost orange-y tone. The cover texture is also almost an exact match, just a wee bit shinier. There seems to be a very subtle scoring of the front and back cover near where it folds along the spine, I’m not sure why.

fabio ricci notebook back cover

The design of the paper band is very close to Moleskine’s old design. There’s a stamped logo on the back cover, of course, but here you notice a slight difference in how the elastic closure is attached– on the Fabio Ricci notebook, the holes are very open and you can see the edges, where on a Moleskine they are always smaller, more tightly tucked around the elastic. To me, this small detail makes a big difference– the bare cardboard edges just don’t look as nice.

The cover overhang is pretty similar to today’s Moleskines. (In the photos above, the Fabio Ricci notebook is in the middle, between a pre-2011 squared Moleskine with almost no cover overhang, and a current day dot-grid Moleskine.) When you open the notebook, the spine feels a little stiff and creaky, but it loosens up a bit and opens pretty flat. But I’m sure over time the corners of the spine will start to wear out because of the stress from it not bending inwards.

The inside front cover has a typical logo placement, and space for contact details. The back pocket has a nice extra detail: a slot that will hold a business card. It is 2-ply, so the business card is isolated from the contents of the expanding pocket. The sides of the pocket are paper, without any cloth reinforcement, but they are a snazzy orange to match the triangle/horse logo on the edge.

One of the main reasons I bought this notebook was that it had plain white paper– I hate it that so many notebooks only come in lined versions. The paper is slightly creamy white, just slightly brighter than Moleskine paper. It is quite smooth, and feels good with a variety of pens, but like Moleskine paper, it works best with fine gel pens, ballpoints, and pencils. Fountain pens and wetter rollerball pens will bleed and feather a bit. The paper weight is not specified but again it feels very much like current Moleskine paper, and gives a similar amount of show-through.

fabio ricci notebook pen test

All in all, this notebook is pretty good but not great. I won’t be buying any more, which is just as well because the availability in the US now seems to be limited. When I bought mine in late 2019, the price was $9.95 and the total including tax and shipping from Amazon was $13.96. Not too bad, especially compared to the price of the almost identical Moleskine. While these are no longer listed on Amazon, has some available– they came in white, black and brown covers, and lined and squared versions, but not all versions are still in stock.

This Fabio Ricci notebook is not going to be a daily carry for me anytime soon, but it will be in a box of back-ups that I can turn to if I ever deplete my [huge!] stash of notebooks that are better! But I’ll have to take it out of that box a good long time before I want to use it to see if I can air out that weird crayon smell.

Stationery From India

I saw an article a couple of months ago about some notebook brands I wasn’t familiar with, all brands of stationery from India. I haven’t come across many Indian notebooks up til now. Rubberband sent me some samples quite a few years ago, but I couldn’t have named any other Indian notebook brands off the top of my head. Now I have a few on my list to check out!

Nappa Dori

Nappa Dori has an attractive look, kind of retro. Though they are based in India, they also have a store in London and their products (which go well beyond stationery) are available in 20 countries.

Craft Boat

Cute colors! Craft Boat offers a variety of notebooks and stationery in lovely pastel shades. It looks like everything ships from India, so international shipping could be expensive.

Origin One

More really cute notebooks, journals, planners and other products. I love the way they display them on their website. Again shipping from India may be expensive.

Check out the article from Architectural Digest for more brands of stationery from India.

Salvador Dali Notebook

I recently came across this 2016 Huffington Post article about the auction sale of a Salvador Dali notebook via Pinterest, and thought “How on earth did I miss this?!?” This is one of my favorite glimpses of an artist’s notebook!

Here’s A Rare Glimpse Inside Salvador Dalí’s Unpublished Diaries

Salvador Dalí, the great Surrealist painter and bombastic lover of ocelots, is widely known for his nightmarish depictions of melting timepieces, nesting tigers and spindly-legged elephants. He’s less revered for his ability to meticulously monitor his daily expenses.

Thanks to a recent auction at Sotheby’s in Paris, the mustachioed master’s humdrum knack for documenting his spending, listing each and every transaction amidst a flurry of horse head illustrations and erotic doodles, has finally come to light. Not only did the artist hide original drawings, arbitrary criticisms and spontaneous thoughts inside his journal, he kept his endless charts of numbers — a peseta here, a few hundred pesetas there — locked away too.

salvador dali notebook
salvador dali notebook

I just love the dense textures and layers of writing and patterns in different colored inks. It looks like the notebook was originally wire-bound but the pages were detached and re-mounted into some sort of cover. There are more images in the original post. I like the Salvador Dali notebook better than his paintings!

The Godfather Notebook

I get some great tips from readers, especially David B., who shared this one recently:

“Fresh Air” on NPR today reran Teri Gross’s interview with Francis Ford Coppola from 2016 when his Godfather production notebook facsimile was published.

I don’t remember ever hearing about this book at the time but it sounds like a fascinating look behind the scenes at Coppola’s creative process. Coppola pasted in all the pages of Mario Puzo’s book and annotated them with ideas for the film.

The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, diaries: in search of the perfect page…