We know that digital diaries are the organiser of choice for many, but we prefer to commit our plans to paper. There is something almost refreshing now, in a day filled with screens, about putting meetings and social engagements in ink and being able to see what is on that week or month without having to scroll down or worry that a battery is going to die.
As all Stationeryophiles know, a diary must work for your lifestyle. Some want a slimline version to use as an aide-memoire so that they never forget a friend’s birthday or that they have French class on Friday. Others treat theirs as a bible to life; stuffing it full of appointments, notes, doodles, to-do lists and recipes they ripped out the Sunday papers but never quite get round to making. Looks may be almost as important as function, particularly if it is going to be sitting on a desk rather than tucked away in a bag or pocket.
Here we’ve selected diaries that come in a range of sizes, running from a chunky A4 to a dinky A7. There are super-simple and functional options as well as more decorative, but no less practical products. We went for diaries made from quality, weighty paper and with durable covers that will withstand wear and tear or look better with age. Some come gift-wrapped and make great Christmas presents, others are an ideal treat for yourself to mark the new year.
1. Moleskine Weekly Notebook Diary: From £14.95, Moleskine
When putting together this piece, we asked around The Independent offices for the team’s recommendation. Moleskine came up time and again. The Italian brand aces simple, super-practical stationery that looks smart but understated. The diaries come in a number of sizes, formats and colours, but the favourite in Indy towers was the weekly notebook. You get a week to view on one side and a lined page for notes and to-do lists on the another. From the fact they lie flat when you open them and stay that way, to the elastic closure and handy back pocket, these fuss-free planners are brilliant for keeping life organised. Choose from three sizes, six colours and a hard or soft cover.
2. The Persephone One Hundred and Twenty Diary for 2017: £18, Persephone Books
This one is a real treat for avid readers and social history lovers. London-based Persephone Books publishes out-of-print and little-known titles every year, mostly novels by women written in the interwar years. Though the collection is predominantly lesser-known authors, there are a few names you will recognise, such as Richmal Crompton, known for her William series for children, as well as Virginia Woolf and Noel Streatfeild. The books published are the authors’ less-celebrated works (Crompton penned 40 books for adults, for example). Whatever the subject, Persephone books feel special: all have smart dove grey covers and inside, a decorative endpaper that evokes the spirit of the book, a fabric design from the time the author was writing, say, in colours or forms that reflect the mood of the text. The annual diary includes all 120 endpapers, along with the first sentence of the corresponding book and a little explanation for each one. Diary-wise, you get a week to view on one side but as it’s a bit smaller than A5, this is one for important dates and anniversaries rather than a daily agenda. The weighty, quality paper makes it quite heavy so Persephone Books says that it probably works best as a desk diary - and we agree.
3. Paperchase Night Garden Wiro Diary: From £6, Paperchase
You know you can rely on Paperchase for a well-priced, eye-catching diary. There are loads of designs to choose from, many of which come in ring-bound styles - handy because they lie flat when you write in them. This year’s crop includes a gothic take on florals, woodland animals as well as geometric prints and maps. Our pick of the lot is this striking garden-inspired one in a week-to-view format. There is space for notes and contacts and the elastic closure means you can keep papers in check. Choose from A5 or A6 sizes.
4. Hope House Press Personalised Leather Diary: From £46, Not On The High Street
We’ve long been fans of Cambridge-based Hope House Press’ leather-bound notebooks, journals and diaries. Each one is handmade to order using fine Italian leather and printed using a letterpress. The USP here is that you can really make it your own. There are nine colours to choose from, with hues running from classic browns, navy and burgundy (these ones take on a lovely vintage look with time) to bright red, blue and a smart muted sage. You can pick your format, size and there are lots of different personalisation options. We like this new design with just a single lower case initial. Our pick of the sizes is the handbag-friendly “medium” that is between A5 and A6. All come in a gift box so this one makes a nice Christmas present.
5. Dodo Pad Desk Diary 2017 Calendar Year Week to View: £14, Dodo Pad
Here’s one for anyone who has a whole family to organise. The Dodo Pad has been going since 1966 and for some, has become something of an institution. It’s a spiral bound desk diary arranged in a grid system so you can fit up to five people’s activities and appointments on each week to view. Everyone gets their own column and alongside little Johnny’s violin lessons and PE kit reminders, adjacent pages are filled with witty illustrations, poems, puns and irreverent notes to inspire. Sample line: “finished sheets are especially suitable for making paper boats, darts, book-markers or tapers for lighting a barbeque.” There is also plenty of space for doodling. It comes in seven formats, including a wall planner and there is also a version for students, the Acad-Pad.
6. Paperblanks 2017 Ocean Song Midi Horizontal: £11, Amazon
The intricate designs in bold colours on Paperblanks’ stationery have a mystical, other-wordly feel to them. Inside the fold over cover, you get an easy-to-use diary. The size of the “midi”, between A5 and A6, means you have enough space for appointments and notes but it will slip in a handbag. You get a simple week-to-view format, a handy pouch for any loose papers and a removeable address book. If mermaids don’t take your fancy, there are lots of other designs to choose from.
7. Leuchtturm 2017 Pocket Weekly Planner: From £11.95, Bureau Direct
Leuchtturm vies with Moleskine for sleek simplicity on the diary front. The family-run German company makes cleverly straightforward stationery. The weekly planner is as simple as it gets: you have a week to view on one side, with no lines or times, then space for notes on the adjacent page. There are some useful bonuses, like the pocket at the back for papers and the face the paper quality is good – Leuchtturm markets itself as a brand for fountain pen users, so if you are that way inclined, the ink shouldn’t bleed through. It comes in A4 and A5 sizes but we would go for the A6 as it comes in 14 colours.
8. Smythson Soho Textured Leather Diary: £155, Smythson
Smythson is the luxury brand on our Christmas list this year. Its British-made leather-bound diaries come in a host of colours, sizes and formats. We’ve fallen for the Soho; between A5 and A6, it fits in your bag and with its week-to-view listing on one side and to do-list on the other, it’s ideal those of us that can’t get things done without writing them down. The gilt-edged pages help up the luxe factor and there are twenty colours and finishes to choose from. Each comes in the brand’s blue presentation box so is another one that makes a good present. If we were spending this much, we'd plump for a classic colour we wouldn't get tired of, like this colbalt blue.
9. The Aspinal Lizard Print Diary: £45, Aspinal of London
Aspinal’s leather diaries are as traditional as they come; handmade with gilt-edged pages and with a contacts page that includes room for a fax number, but the bright colours bring these right up to date. They come in a range of finishes but we like the lizard-print calf leather that comes in a slimline pocket-sized version with a week-to-view layout. Choose from four bright colours, including this orange that you won’t miss at the bottom of your handbag. There are also A6, A5 and A4 options. If you merely want it for birthdays and appointments, there is also a really mini pocket version that comes with a pen. You can opt to get it embossed with up to four gold initials when you buy online.
10. TeNeues Antique Books Diary: £11.99, Amazon
Here’s another book-themed diary, this time from German brand Teneues. From the outside, it could pass for a stack of weathered tomes, but open the magnetic flap and it is a diary in week-to-view format. Each double page is divided into the days of the week on one side and notes on the other. Unlike some other notebook-style diaries, the days are marked out so you can keep track of notes and those who have multiple appointments in one day will like the fact each day is split into morning, afternoon and evening. The inside is peppered with excerpts and illustrations from European books from the last millennium, some unexpected, like an 18th-century science encyclopaedia. There’s a useful pocket at the back and it also comes in a smaller version.
11. Rifle Paper Co Midnight Agenda: £28, Paper Mash
The Florida-based stationery brand makes the sort of diaries that you will want to show off on your desk – and they are really well-thought out too. This cloth-bound navy one with a copper floral pattern is our pick of the collection available to buy in the UK. We love that when you open it, you get colourful illustrated endpapers, then thanks to the tabs, it easy to flip to the pages you need. The listings for each day are set up and the usual section like space for contacts feels more modern than some. We like the sections for important dates and inspirational quotes and the folder at the back. Note: as it’s an American brand, you don’t get British bank holidays, but we reckon that’s a small price to pay for this beauty.
12. Letts Two Tone 2017 Diary: £10.99, Letts
If you like the leather look but can’t quite stretch to it, these diaries from Letts are a smart compromise. They come in three bold colour combos – lime and blue, burgundy and blue and blue and pink – all options you will easily see in your bag, and the soft spine means you can fold it back and it will stay open, which is very useful when you’re trying to multitask. It also comes in a day-to-view format as well as a pocket-sized week to view.
13. Kikki.K A5 Weekly Diary: £24, Kikki.k
Swedish stationery brand Kikki.k makes diaries and planners in pastel hues that make us feel calmer and more focussed just looking at them. We particularly like the layout of its weekly diaries. At the beginning of each month, you get a planner with a space for notes, then each double-page is split into a grid of eight; seven days divided into am and pm and a spot for birthdays, plus one notes box and some motivational quotes running along the bottom (even if you think it’s cheesy, it’s hard to argue with the likes of “Dream. Believe. Do. Repeat”). The 100gsm pages feel reassuringly weighty and there’s a handy pocket in the back as well as a pack of stickers to decorate it with (think hearts and stars). It’s quite chunky thanks to the extra pages, some more useful than others; we’d use the address pages and expenses, but perhaps not the lists of websites, restaurants, films and books. It comes in pastel pink and charcoal grey version and there are five sizes, as well as a slim, pocket-sized version in this pretty pistachio green. Buy one of these for a teen for Christmas and we think you will have a fan for life.
The Verdict: 2017 Diaries
For a super-simple, seek option, we'd go for Moleskine. Stationeryphiles will appreciate the thought that has gone into Kikki.K's attractive planners. If you want a leather-bound notebook that you can really make your own (or give as a thoughtful present), try Hope House Press.
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