Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
I’m not much of a mantra guy. Boiling life down to a few choice words has always seemed a little silly to me. That said, I do turn to one phrase a bunch. It’s “A.B.R.” and it stands for Always Be Reading.
When I graduated from college, I didn’t read a book for four months. I was an English major in school and had been accustomed to finishing up to two or three books a week. But when it was all over, I guess I thought I deserved a break. I certainly spent that summer reading about the world (it was 2017, so there was a lot to consume), but I never sat down to travel to another one.
In early September though, a month before my interview for a job (this one), I picked up a bunch of books I’d long wanted to read during my undergrad years, but never had time to, due to the merry-go-round of research papers, class discussions and office hours for books that had been assigned to me. I rediscovered, without much effort — honestly, it might’ve happened two or three pages in — those feelings I’d first discovered while reading when I was a kid. I remembered reading cross-legged on the carpet of my elementary school classroom, sitting under a umbrella in my backyard, and flipping pages in the backseat of my family’s Chevy TrailBlazer on long road trips.
After a long, tightly wound summer spent watching most of my friends get jobs and move into cities across the States, my return to reading was a godsend. It calmed me down. It injected a bit of mindfulness into my daily routine. It gave me perspective. It made me a more interesting person. I wouldn’t credit a few books with helping me land my first job out of school; endless Glassdoor-refreshing, timely emails and a successful interview were the driving forces there. But it brought some measure of peace to my life, at a time when I was lost and confused. I told myself that going forward, I’d always be reading one book, and have another on deck.
For a while, I held up my end of the bargain on that. I read right through 2018. I read through most of 2019. But recently, life has gotten in the way. For a variety of reasons, I’ve only finished two books since late August. Screens have filled that hole, and I’ve spent more time than ever staring at them: on the subway, during lunch, and most importantly — just before bed.
According to a study published by the University of Sussex, six minutes of reading a day can reduce stress by 68%. Researchers assessed the stress levels and heart rates of various test subjects, and reading was more effective at calming people down than listening to music, drinking tea, or taking a walk. The lead researcher on the project, a cognitive neuropsychologist named Dr. David Lewis, said in his report that reading allows us “to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”
That study coincides with thoughts expressed by South African-Australian anthropologist Ceridwen Dovey in The New Yorker in 2015. Dovey wrote: “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”
In other words: reading gets us out of our heads. The effect is even more profound when reading fiction. We’re able to shut off (or at least temporarily pause) the troubles of our own lives, when we invest in the stories of others. And when that practice is done before bed — a time when worries can pile up for someone like me, who catches a case of acute onset insomnia every month or so — it increases one’s prospects of restful, REM sleep.
I’m not looking for more books this Christmas; I’ve got a pile of seven waiting to be opened for the first time. But I am looking for a nightstand addition that will inspire me to actually take six (or 60) minutes before bed for some quality wind-down reading. To that end, this holiday season I’m asking for this bedside reading lamp, from Gantri:
It’s officially called the “Cantilever Table Light,” and it’s designed (and made) in San Francisco by an industrial designer named Louis Filosa. This is Gantri’s M.O., by the way; the site is one the best platforms out for talented young product designers to sell their wares. Filosa has a degree in industrial design from Purdue, has worked under renowned architects and designers like Michael Graves, Karim Rashid, and Marcel Wonders, and is currently collabing on projects with CB2 (Crate & Barrel’s design-forward sub-label).
With the Cantilever, Filosa’s produced a spherical orb that sits off-kilter on the edge of an elevated base. It throws 360-degree ambient light, has a dimmer, stands 9.5″ tall, and uses a corn-based bioplastic, which is easier on the environment and doesn’t get hot to the touch. It’s cozy without sacrificing any cool, wields more character than just about any nightstand lamp you’d find in an aisle at IKEA, and I love the idea of tagging it in as my new reading light. Opening a book under my room’s bright ceiling light is already more sleep-conducive than bingeing on the blue light from my phone right before bed (which inhibits the production melatonin). But the best possible scenario is to axe out the phone and the ceiling light, and to employ a calming, warmer light that sits right next to the bed.
So that’s what I want for Christmas. Not just the sweet light, which a reviewer dubbed “magical,” but a return to reading, a renewed sense of calm heading into the new year, and better sleep. World peace would be nice, too, Gantri hasn’t listed a light fixture to solve that quite yet.
We've put in the work researching, reviewing and rounding up all the shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories you'll need this season, whether it's for yourself or for gifting purposes. Sign up here for weekly style inspo direct to your inbox.