Good Nightstand

The Novelist Aja Gabel Has Been Wanting to Tell You About Her Nighttime Routine

Aja Gabel knows the importance of making your bedroom an oasis. The author—whose standout debut novel The Ensemble tells the story of four friends and members of a string quartet finding their way through life and rigorous classical music careers—is used to living intensely. She was a cellist in a quartet as a teenager herself before deciding on the equally disciplined life of a writer. With a film based on one of her short stories on the way and another novel in the works, the L.A. resident makes the case for indulging in good hand lotion and fully unplugging at the end of the day. Here’s what she keeps close at hand.

Hydrating Oil

“My side table is covered in oils and lotions. I get these intricate gel manicures, and my cuticles get dry. The nail artist told me to put nail oil on my cuticles, so I got argan oil. It makes the manicure last longer. It’s Trader Joe’s! And I really like their lavender hand lotion for afterward. It feels really decadent to do this routine.”

Good Reads

“I have a stack of books next to the bed that I read instead of turning to the phone at night. There’s a book I love so much right now. It’s called Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden. I want to read a little bit of it every day and make it last.”

Easy Plants

“We live right next to Sunset Nursery, a giant plant emporium in Silver Lake, and I’ve now become a plant person. We have several in the bedroom, including small succulents bedside. I never bought into the idea that plants were necessary, but I realize how they make a space feel better.”

So Much Skin Stuff

“My lips were so dry after moving to L.A. from Portland two years ago. I use the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask and that helps. For skincare, I use DHC oil cleanser if I’m wearing makeup. It’s Japanese, and it’s amazing. And the one thing I use before I put anything else on my face, every single morning and night, is the SK-II Essence. Having a routine has helped form this ritual of winding down. I also use a CBD tincture every night called Papa & Barkley. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds, but this one really helps with my migraines.”

Inclusive Crosswords

“I’m a really big crossword junkie. I get frustrated with the New York Times crossword because it’s often created from a male perspective. Then I found out about The Inkubator, which fosters female and nonbinary puzzle constructors. I subscribe, and every week a new puzzle comes that I print out. My husband and I do it together.”

Playing Cards

“We went on this trip to Mexico, and the place where we stayed for five days had no wifi. We ended up playing cards at the kitchen table. We taught ourselves gin rummy, and it was really fun. Now we’ve been trying not to watch TV at night and to do offline things like play cards instead.”

Crisp Sheets

“I didn’t put too much care into sheets before. I just chose whatever didn’t show hair. But recently I wanted to make the bedroom a place to look forward to being. So I bought some classic cotton sheets and a mint green duvet. It makes me happy. My 12-year-old Jack Russell terrier Bear sleeps under the covers with us.”