6 Reasons You Should Be Keeping a Commonplace Book

First of all, what is a commonplace book?

A commonplace book is a notebook (or other resource) that is used to record ideas, facts, quotes, and personal responses to information encountered while reading, studying, or just going about your daily life.

You can use it to record anything,from that deep, inspirational quote from your latest read to that hilarious thing your best friend said the other day over coffee.


Why keep a commonplace or reading journal?

The answer to this question is quite simply to have a record of your thoughts and learning for use later in life — whether that be next week or in 20 years. Great men and women throughout history have kept such journals, from Marcus Aurelius to Thomas Jefferson. I’ve even heard that Bill Gates keeps one.

There are many benefits to keeping one, here are some of the reasons you might want to consider keeping some sort of written notebook, reading journal, or commonplace book:

You are more likely to be able to recall something if you have written it down

Even if you don’t actually go back to reference the entry, writing something down is one of the best ways to retain information.

It helps you to focus and contemplate ideas

I know that when I’m taking notes, I’m unable to think about one thing while writing about another. It keeps the mind from wandering. Re-wording or summarizing also helps to make someone else’s ideas your own.

It keeps you awake!

How many times have you fallen asleep while reading? I’ve done it more times than I’d care to admit! You are so much less likely to fall asleep while taking notes or marking up a book.

It sets a good example for your children

It is so important for our children to see that learning and education is not restricted to children alone! If we want our children to grow to be lifelong learners, they must see that we are as well. My daughter refers to my notebook as mom’s copywork 🙂

It keeps your brain sharp

The physical act of writing is a good cognitive exercise for keeping your mind sharp as you age. To keep your brain from atrophy, you need to exercise it!

It will be a great help to your biographer

Just kidding!

While the commonplace books kept by notable people are a wonderful source of information to us today,  yours may be a blessing to your children or other descendants some day.

What is a commonplace book? Why should you be keeping one?

Do you keep a commonplace book, or some other kind of reading notebook?
Living and Learning at Home


  1. Cassandra Holdeman May 18, 2016 at 8:03 am

    I love this idea and will begin a commonplace book today. I forget so much anymore that it will really be a blessing to have one.

    1. Learning Mama May 18, 2016 at 10:52 am

      It is a huge blessing and encouragement! I used to write notes about my reading years ago (I had no idea I was “commonplacing” LOL) but stopped. I’ve noticed a huge difference since I resumed the practice last year when I decided to get intentional about my reading.

  2. Carol May 19, 2016 at 5:36 am

    I’m often intrigued about why I recorded certain quotes when I look back. Some words strike you more forcefully at different times & that’s something I enjoy about the practice. Like you, I was keeping one for some time but never gave it the name.

  3. Leanne@frenglishlearning May 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Can’t do it! I would just lose the paper. Any notes I take have got to be electronic. 🙁

    1. Learning Mama May 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      I’ve heard that some scan their notebooks into Evernote, and then their notes are all searchable. I tried to use Evernote for my recipes, but it was a colossal failure for me and I couldn’t figure it out. When it comes to technology, I need a lot of hand holding (but then I love it).

  4. annette @ A net in Time May 23, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    ah, so kinda like how I use evernote. 🙂 it’s my idea keeper. 🙂

    1. Learning Mama May 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      I’d love to see how people are using Evernote (in person) — I’ve heard of so many people who use it for anything from recipe organization to homeschooling! It sounds like something that I would love if I could only figure out how to make it work for me!

  5. Amy Maze May 23, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    I have yet to come up with one particular commonplace notebook, but I have definitely been getting in the habit of jotting things down more as I read. I think that another benefit of doing this (and more so with a physical book than electronic notes) is that it can bless and encourage others. I think it would be neat to have a book like this on the coffee table or a similar place that others would see it and flip through it.

    1. Learning Mama May 23, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      A friend of mine is keeping hers with her son in mind <3
      I would love to peruse her commonplace books!

  6. Emily June 2, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I’ve been doing this for years and didn’t realize it was a legitimate thing. I’ve got two books (one for home and one for my purse) and that’s exactly what I do with them.

  7. jane capellaro June 3, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I keep commonplace books with an index, two pages with the alphabet and some lines for each letter,noting page numbers(requires you to number the pages) as Locke did, thereby I can find things again. I would post how with an attachment if there were that possibility here.

    1. Learning Mama June 3, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      I haven’t figured out how I’m going to organize my newest commonplace yet. I’ve left some blank pages at the beginning for a table of contents though. You sound so organized!

  8. Nancy November 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    I’ve been doing this for years, though I don’t call it a commonplace book. Now I can put a name to it. I have just been known since my very young years as the girl who always carries a notebook. My notebooks contain ideas, thoughts, plans, quotes, desires, feelings, etc. And I refer to them often.

    1. Learning Mama November 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Me too — I had been doing this for YEARS before I knew there was a name for it 🙂

  9. Colleen March 24, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    I started doing this on my phone lately – writing down new words and where I read them, writing the main ideas I want to remember and chew on in challenging books (e.g. Screwtape Letters), but I like the idea of writing it down better — if I can just keep track of the notebook.

    1. Learning Mama March 25, 2017 at 7:03 am

      I’m sure there are many who keep digital commonplace books — it definitely has the advantage of being convenient!

  10. Ginny September 30, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I love this! My blog is actually called “A Modern Commonplace Book” – for the exact same reason! Kindred minds ;-). moderncommonplacebook.com

  11. Ron Wild November 4, 2017 at 4:23 am

    I’ve kept a commonplace for the last forty years or so, however, I only learned the term when reading Laurence Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy”, about six years ago. Once full, I copy them up into a large book for handwriting/calligraphy practice. That way I can keep the quotes, observations et cerebra and dump the out of data bus times and similar. I keep a daily journal too.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.