My favorite book journaling tools

Last week I shared my new class, Book Journaling for Book Lovers. In it, I share how I’ve taken a regular journal and transformed it into a tracker for my reading life that works really well for me. It helps me track what I’ve read, what I want to read, book notes, all time favorites, bookstores to visit… plus it helps me schedule my reading time.

You can choose to make your book journal as simple or as elaborate as you want: both with the tools you use and the designs you put inside.

My journal is super simple, but I’m a pen geek, and I do enjoy using—at least periodically—a wide variety of journaling tools.

Can you make a book journal that serves you well with a notebook from Target’s Dollar Spot and a cheap promotional pen? YES. But if you’ve ever described yourself as a pen junkie, or can’t visit a bookstore without browsing the stationery section, this list of some of my favorite tools is for you.


  • The Leuchtturm 1917 journal is my favorite, and the gold standard of bullet journalers because of its thick paper, numbered pages, and extra bookmark. I prefer the dotted. (lined | dotted | squared | plain)
  • The Moleskine is another favorite journal, available in a wide variety of sized and colors.
  • Rhodia journals are high quality, with smooth paper, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. I buy these at my local bookstore—the spiral reverse book is my favorite for brainstorming and note taking. (bound | spiral )


  • The Pilot G-2 is a classic gel pen, easy to find and inexpensive. I prefer the finer .38 tip. (.5 “extra fine” | .38 “ultra fine”) . I also love the similar Pilot Juice.
  • The Pilot Precise V5 is a smooth roller ball pen that draws a satisfying deep black line. I especially love the extra fine point retractable version.
  • The Uniball Signo Micro 207 is another inexpensive, smooth-writing pen.
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliners are fine felt-tip pens available in a wide variety of beautiful colors. I LOVE the grey because it writes like a pen but looks like a pencil. (black | multi | grey)
  • Sakura Microns are favored by sketchers because they write well on all kinds of paper, and the colors are intense. Also available at JoAnn Fabrics. (black variety pack | multi)
  • Papermate Flairs are fantastic and versatile felt-tip pens. I’m writing with one right now. The tropical colors are my favorite.
  • Sharpie pens are my current favorite (fine point please). (blue | multi)
  • Le Pens are fun and colorful, with a sleek barrel design. 
  • Gellyrolls are my favorite for accenting my journal, and are also our go-to birthday gift for the younger set. (The moonlight collection is our favorite.) (moonlightglaze | stardust)
  • My Lamy Vista fountain pen is perfect for those who want to dip their toes into the world of fountain pens, though I hardly ever use this in my book journal.


I’m a pen girl, myself, but this past year I’ve been experimenting more with pencils, like these.


  • I love my Lettermatea handy tool for those of us that have trouble writing in a straight line. (Look for this at Paper Source or your local bookstore.)
  • Book darts have my heart. 
  • Post-its, because I use them like this.
  • Stencils to make things neat and pretty (like this banner/bullet one on Etsy, or this bookshelf stencil)
  • This very small star stamp, if you like to assign star ratings to your titles.
  • Washi tape can double as a book dart and is an easy way to decorate a page.

If you want to know all of my book journaling secrets, Book Journaling for Book Lovers is just $15 in the MMD Shop.

Do you have a pen you’d rather not live without, or a pencil you adore, or a fun extra you swear by? Tell us about them in comments. Much like my TBR pile, I can never have enough pen recommendations. 


Leave A Comment
  1. Katie says:

    I love Zebra Mildliners for adding color and marking off tasks in my bullet journal. The colors are gorgeous. I order them on Amazon!

  2. Rachel Stefaniw says:

    I love the website They have all kinds of pens, and you can buy almost any color of any pen by itself! They also have some great pencil bags and accessories. I was able to order a bunch of different grey pens for my book journal from their site without having to get a whole set with all colors. The Zebra Mildliners are also available as single colors. I’m just so thrilled I’ve discovered this site that I want to make sure everyone know about it! 🙂

  3. Angie Head says:

    I am a bit of a pen snob myself. I have dabbled with fountain pens and love them but havent found them very useful for everyday life. My go to pen is the Uniball Vision Elite in blue. Nice and smooth to write with and i like the looks of the pen as well!

    • Patty says:

      I agree but Black is my favorite. I love the way the pen looks and I have these all over my house and in my purse and I guard my stash. My favorite pen to write with right now.

  4. MISSY says:

    Do you listen to the Pen Addict podcast? Mostly about fountain pens now, but old episodes had more variety. I’m a total pen nerd and now go the The Pen Show every year-so hooked! How about the Erasable podcast-all about pencils? Another good one. Once I tried the COPIC Multiliner, I couldn’t go back to Microns. So good!

    • Cheri says:

      I love all writing utensils. My absolute favorite pencil that I use daily (special ed math teacher here) is the Pentel Energize mechanical, though I recently found one that may give it a run for its money but I cannot find that pencil right now (not with me at the moment). Yes!!! I too love the staedler gray pen!

  5. Trudy Mintun says:

    I am CRAZY about pens! I have a favorite. It is the Pilot Frixion Erasable. It has a smooth stroke, and comes in many different colors. Remember years ago when erasable pens came out, and the smudgy mess they made on the paper? Not this one! It erases perfectly every time. I need the erasable ink, because sometimes my hand writes before the word is complete in my head and an error is made. I can not have a scratch out on the page, not even for just a grocery list, so that would mean I needed to start the page over. This pen is perfect for error prone people like me.

    • Joy B says:

      Seconded!! My fourth grader is only allowed to write in ink for school and these pens write so well and erase so well when mistakes happen.

    • Melanie M says:

      I love the Frixion pens and markers. Did you know there’s a special notebook for those pens? It’s called the Rocketbook Everlast. With the rocketbook app, you can scan the pages in the notebook and send them to seven different locations (Dropbox, google drive, Evernote, email, etc). And then you can clean the pages with water and use them again. Like you said, you can erase, too. Amazon has two sizes of the Rocketbook. (Make sure you find the everlast version, it’s better.)

  6. Susan Dennison says:

    I love writing with pencils, there is something about erasing that I like. I use whatever I can get my hands on, but I don’t like mechanical pencils and the pencil has to sharpen well. I’m also a fan of my Cross fountain pen, although suprisingly, when I write with it, my writing is very sloppy.

  7. Allison says:

    My favorite go-to pen is the Pentel Energel in medium (0.7), however, it comes in fine point (0.5). It comes in a multitude of colors, most recently in Navy (be still my heart). I love these pens for all things journaling, writing, even my check book register (I’m old…or old-fashioned; take your pick).
    These pens are easy to find and inexpensive. Therefore, I’ve given STRICT instructions to everyone in my family that when it comes to things like stocking stuffers, Birthday gifts etc., I want these pens or none at all!

    • Maureen says:

      Hi, Allison – that’s what I use – and the best part is that you can buy refills! I didn’t know that for the longest time, and I kick myself for all those years I bought new pens. Now I just get refills for all my favorite colors….

      • Allison says:

        I am aware of the refills, however, I haven’t ever figured out what to do with the refills until I need them!

  8. Meghan says:

    I love my Pelikan fountain pen! I also hoard the pencils from the Target Dollar Spot — they’re so great! They’re cute, cheap (6 for $1!), and have a nice smooth, dark, un-waxy lead that rarely breaks. I only get the round barrel ones without erasers; they’re a little better than the ones with. A real pencil sharpener is a must, not one of the tiny school supply handheld ones. Mine’s electric, but I am on the lookout for a great wall-mount manual one.

  9. Cindy says:

    TUL blue gel ink medium needle point pen…absolute must have for me. I buy them by the dozen and even give them as gifts.

  10. Anna says:

    OMG when you said, if you can’t go to a bookstore without visiting the stationary section, I knew I had to read this post! I recently purchased a fountain type pen set at office Depot, it’s the Zebra Fountain Pen, the set had blue, black, purple and pink and it was less than $5 which is pretty good for pens! I also like the Foray brand Stylemark pens (I think it’s like an Office Depot brand or something), they have a .5mm fine Micron-type tip and I really like it! But if you ever deal with the tips of the pens getting pushed in as you write, that will most likely happen with these, but at least I’m not spending an arm and a leg to replace them! Great post thanks for sharing!

  11. Katherine says:

    There is a pencil store in New York? I want to plan a trip there right now!

    Anne, have you ever done a post on stationery stores? I would love to have a list of your readers’ favorites around the country and around the globe! So many independent stores have closed & we’re left with Staples & OfficeMax. My favorite souvenirs from a trip to Paris were the Clairfontane notebooks I found in Gibert Juene.

    Thanks for your consideration!

  12. Stephanie says:

    I use the MMD printable PDF reading journal in a small 3 ring binder and absolutely love it! I started using it a few years ago, is this still something you offer? I would love some updated award winners lists!

  13. Claire says:

    I’ve been a pen geek since elementary school. Both my sisters are too. I second the recommendation to check out Jet Pens. Excellent quality pens and the best customer service. They have refills for many styles, which is good for the pens I don’t lose. (I hate to throw out a perfectly good pen that is out of ink. ;-/) They have a lot with blue/black ink, my favorite. Love this one best right now:

  14. John Majors says:

    Best book journal I’ve seen is Leuchtturm’s “EX LIBRIS” journal – specifically designed for journaling about your books. It is fantastic. Sometimes hard to find, but worth the money. Dedicates one page per book with pre-printed fields to fill in (author, date, title, genre, etc) and space to rate the book and leave notes. Also an tabbed index in the back for listing your books. Also a few tabbed sections to capture “to read” lists, “gift ideas” and a few blank pages for comments. My mom gave it to me as a gift, and I thought there was no way I would use it, but this combined with tracking my books in goodreads has exploded my reading 3 fold over the last two years. Here’s a link to the Journal on Leuchtturm’s site:

    • Mary Jane McNeill says:

      Moleskine also makes a great book journal to go along with their other journals…wine, restaurants, etc… I’ve used it for years until I switched over to Anne’s 3-ring binder format.

  15. Judy H. says:

    Hi Anne!
    I am delighted to see another “book journaling lover” who recognizes the importance of Gelly Roll pens as an integral part of dynamic book journaling. 🙂

  16. Jennifer says:

    I have recently fallen in love with the journals from Inkwell Press. They are a little pricey, about $19.00 for 100 pages, but the paper is so luxurious, so nice to write on.

  17. Sarah says:

    My husband used nothing but Pilot Precise V5 when we got married, so when he moved in and I started using his pens, I fell in love. So, I absolutely agree!!!
    Now, they are almost all we have in the house. I have one in my purse, a few in my desk, and in the car—everywhere.
    Game changing for journaling, making lists, writing cards, and everything in between!

  18. Pamela says:

    Pilot G-TEC-C maica 0.4… great for writing in bullet journals because of bright but fine inks… and they come in Brown ink … which I love these days.

  19. Peggy says:

    My husband heard me talking about how much I love writing with pencils and bought me a box of black wing Pearl for Christmas. I love how sharp it is and how smooth it writes. Perfect gift!

  20. Carol Raynor says:

    I have kept journals for 50 years. I write to the headlines as well as about my life. I have copies made for my 4 daughters as the originals go to the State Historical Society of Missouri

  21. Elizabeth says:

    My favorite pencil is Faber Castell 2=B
    A fabulous new(gift) pen a Kaweco Sport and my every day pen Pilot G2 in Navy. I have a number of fountain pens, but use them for letter writing.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Also— I am addicted to Avery little removable tabs- I use them as bookmarks for my calendars and books I am reading. I love the metal tones- silver, copper and gold! And I love clear plastic pockets that stick- I add them to my pocket calendar(great for business cards, apt cards) and inside my desk calendar at home for all sorts of things to be tucked into!

  22. Trudy says:

    I own and love practically a zillion kinds of pens. I have become a total IN LOVE USER of the pens by WRITECH….the ones that are the liquid rolling ball pens, especially the set of Vintage Colors. They are for sure my favorite for journaling, don’t bleed through, but will show through on very thin pages when using the darker colors. They are so fast to dry, and no smearing!! Very affordable, too. I get them through the beast….amazon……

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