What would you like to receive for your fortieth birthday? Picador author and recent tricenarian Emma Straub lists the ten things she would love to receive.

A year and a half ago, I turned thirty, a number I’d been dreading for some time. Thirty turned out to be wonderful—I felt free of the insecurities I’d been plagued by in my teens and twenties. Now that I’m a proper adult, with a husband and a mortgage and two cats and a car and so forth, time feels more precious to me. What did I do but worry with all those free hours in my youth? If the twenties were about anxiety, and the thirties are about reality, I see no reason why the forties shouldn’t be pure, glorious fantasy. With that in mind, I have made a brief list of gifts I would like to receive for my fortieth birthday, which will occur in 2020, giving you plenty of time to acquire them for me. 


1. A safari, preferably the kind where I would occasionally sleep in a hotel with giraffes nearby, friendly ones that would poke their soft faces through the second-story windows to share my breakfast with me. 

2. One glittering tiara for special occasions, such as dinner with royalty, politicians, and my parents. The central diamond should be no smaller than a baby’s fist. 

3. One more subdued tiara, to be worn to the grocery store and dry-cleaner and such. Central diamond should be no larger than a baby’s fist. 

4. A baguette machine, which will produce fresh baguettes at every meal, always crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. This gift may require a full-time, live-in baker, which I would also begrudgingly accept.

5. An entire year of rent and room service at a five-star hotel, with unlimited rides on the elevator, suspenders, pleated skirts, and bows for my hair, as well as a pet turtle, who I could take for long walks up and down the carpeted hallways. 

6. One butter sculpture, preferably in the shape of a horse.

7. One pair ruby slippers, complete with time-travel potential. 

8. One full year of perfect autumn days. (Comes with appropriate sweaters, jackets, boots, and scarves.)

9. Simple (expert) proficiency in the following: surfing, speaking French, playing the ukulele, gardening, cheese-making, harmonizing, lindy-hopping. 

10. A three-story library with a sliding ladder and all the books I’ve never read. This gift may require a full-time, live-in, extremely handsome librarian. So be it.



Read Sarah Butler's contribution to The Picador Book of 40