Addicted to notebooks

If I ever had to stand up in a meeting and confess an addiction, I know what I’d say.

“My name is Belinda and I am addicted to notebooks.”

I have a stationery problem, no doubt about it. But the truth is, I’d never want to ask for help in overcoming this. I have no wish to give up my addiction. I’m completely enthralled by it.

It began years ago, when I realised that American books smelled different from British ones. I imagine that’s because the printers’ ink – or perhaps the paper stock – has a distinctively different national smell, but I don’t know for sure what causes it. (I gave this idea to Josie in The Truth about Josie Green because I’d had it myself, at her age.)  And somehow, that initial interest in the smell of paper developed into caring about texture and style as well.

My addiction has, if anything, grown with the passing years. I still spend happy times browsing the notebook section of department stores and stationery departments around the world, but I’ve become more discriminating and I know exactly which brands of notebook will gratify my cravings.  (That said, I still make basic errors from time to time, and I can still be surprised or disappointed by a notebook’s suitability once I’ve begun using it.)

I know what I don’t like. I don’t like handbag notebooks to be too small; I want a page size that gives me room to think. And for any notebook at all I don’t like using conventionally-ruled lines: I prefer squares or gridlines. (I don’t usually want blank-paged notebooks either, but I can just about tolerate them for handbag use.)

The best handbag notebook I’ve ever found is this range:

But I’ve only got two of them left, and I can’t find them in London any more. They’re Italian, so I might have to make a special trip to Italy to stock up on them, and I know, I know, how much of a hardship would that be? You can see how cute they are: an elastic band to stop the pages from getting messed-up, and a pencil loop with a matching pencil supplied, so you don’t have to hunt around for something to write with.

I found an A5 notebook along the same lines when I was in New Zealand in March and I loved it for months: it became my ‘everything’ notebook on my travels. It was great because it had a Velcro-type closure and a flap at the back to tuck extra papers into, as well as a pencil loop. It’s all used up now, alas. This it it:


Notebooks for weekly ‘to do’ lists, and to jot down ideas and research notes for current writing or thoughts for new books, all have different requirements. Weekly lists have their own needs – a large page is the main one, and a margin of some kind is another. If I’m feeling especially obsessive I make entries in one colour and cross them off in another – you can see an example of that in the photo below. In the same photo, on the top of the pile, is my current writing notebook for the new book. Although it looks good it has been a sad disappointment. It has a thumb-guide to different sections according to the colour of the paper sections, which I thought was great until I started using it, when I discovered I didn’t want to organise my thoughts into coloured sections after all. I’ll go back to my usual kind after this: a grid system with a wide margin, and a ring binding so I can easily flip through the pages.


The best brand for most purposes is the French Clairefontaine range, which is gratifyingly wide. You can usually pick them up in the UK at specialist stationery shops, or browse the full range in France. If they only did one with an elastic band and a pencil, my life would be serene and well-organised once again…

Yeah, right. 



8 Responses to “Addicted to notebooks”

  1. Notebook Addict of the Week | Notebook Stories Says:

    [...] what Belinda has to say for [...]

  2. miss max Says:

    i absolutely love your notebooks! especially the one under your main notebook with the lines and grids AND margins?! pray tell what kind of notebook is that and how can i satisfy my addiction by obtaining one of those?

  3. admin Says:

    Dear Miss Max, I love those ones too – I use it for weekly lists and plot plans. It’s a French Clairefontaine, 225×297. I probably bought it in France this year, but you can also get them in specialist stationery stores in the UK and USA, or from the web. Good luck!

  4. Speedmaster Says:

    Nice sentiments. ;-)

  5. miss max Says:

    I will have to peruse the internet and stores for one of those! I have quite a few notebooks in my arsenal… but there’s always room for one more, especially if it looks as lovely as that! Thank you so much!

  6. Nadine Says:

    Hi there,
    I have already seen it somethere


  7. admin Says:

    Excellent, Nadine! I’m delighted to hear that!

  8. Curt Roper Says:

    Hi Belinda,
    I wanted to let you know I designed my own personal pocket notebook for use with a fountain pen. I would be happy to mail you a book to try. you can also read about it a the fountain pen network. just search CTF or Hitlist.
    Curt Roper

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