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Best Journals

Updated April 2018
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 25 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 100 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Journals

    Last Updated April 2018

    A journal may be a repository into which you spill your innermost secrets, or it might just be the place where you write down your gardening notes, shopping lists, random musings, or band name ideas.

    Whatever you intend to use your journal for, the first step is to buy one – but which is the right journal to fit your needs? Would you prefer ruled, plain, or dot grid? Stapled, stitched, or spiral-bound?

    If you'd like some assistance in choosing a journal, you've come to the right place. At BestReviews, we create thorough guides and reviews to help you find the products that are perfect for you. To do so, we consult experts, test products in our labs and out in the field, and gather feedback from people who already own the products in question.

    Read on for our full guide to journals, or head to the top of this page to see our five favorites.

    You can find journals that are designed to lie flat when open, a feature which some users find invaluable.

    Questions to ask when selecting a journal

    First of all, you need to consider what you want out of a journal. Ask the following questions of yourself. Your answers will help you select the ideal journal to suit your requirements.

    What will you put in your journal?

    Will you be writing a classic diary, filling your journal with to-do lists, or using the book as a mini sketchbook? The purpose of your journal might dictate the kind that you choose to buy. For instance, if you'll mostly be writing in it, you'll probably want ruled pages, whereas plain pages are better for drawing.

    Do you want a journal with prompts?

    Some journals offer daily, weekly, or monthly writing prompts for inspiration. These can be useful if you're new to journaling and aren't quite sure what to write – or if you've tried writing a journal in the past but haven't been successful at keeping it up.  

    Not all journals are fountain pen-friendly. If you want to write with a fountain pen, be sure to check first that your chosen journal is up to the task.

    Does journal design matter to you?

    Journals range from simple, plain-covered, spiral-bound books – the sort that you might find in a grocery store – to beautiful, highly decorated, hand-crafted pads. The question to ask yourself is, does design matter to you? If you want a journal in which to document something special (for instance, a round-the-world trip or the first years of your child's life) and you plan to keep it for years to come, you'll probably care more about design than if you simply want a book in which to track grocery needs and appointments.

    How much do you want to spend?

    You could spend a little or a lot on a journal, but you do tend to get what you pay for. Basic spiral-bound journals can cost as little as $1. Large, handcrafted journals can cost as much as $50. As a rule, however, you can find journals of excellent quality between the $10 and $20 mark.


    Paper thickness is measured in grams per square meter, or GSM. We recommend a GSM of at least 80 to 100 to avoid bleeding.

    Journal features

    • Size: Most journals come in standard paper sizes (A4, A5, B5, A6, etc.), but you may want to check the measurements if you're unsure. We recommend selecting a journal that's small enough to carry with you, but not so small as to be inconvenient.

    • Number of Pages: Most journals contain between 120 and 250 pages, but you'll also find plenty journals with more or fewer pages.

    • Paper Quality: Not all paper is created equally. If your journal has thin, poor-quality paper, your writing is likely to bleed through onto the next page.

    • Ruling Type: The most common page layouts/ruling types are line-ruled, plain, grid-ruled, and dot grid. You can also find journals with a mixture of ruling types. For example, some pages might be plain and others might be line-ruled.

    • Cover Type: Decide between a hardcover and softcover journal. The former are more durable, whereas the latter are more compact and lightweight.
    Acid-free paper is free from bleaching agents that cause ink to fade over time. It's the best page material for a journal you'll want to keep well into the future.


    Q. How does a journal differ from a notebook?
    A journal and a notebook are essentially the same thing, but the term "journal" is more likely be used to describe higher-quality notebooks or those that contain journaling prompts.

    Q. What's the best kind of binding for a journal?
    The main types of journal binding are glue, stitching, staples, and spiral wire. Each has its pros and cons, but high-end journals usually have stitched binding.

    Q. Should I get a journal with an elastic closure?
    While an elastic closure isn't essential, it can help keep the pages together and avoid damage, particularly if you often carry your journal with you.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Web Producer
    • Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Lauren
    • Melissa
      Senior Editor