Beautiful Days: Stories (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Dreams and unconsciousness, the world once we close our eyes to rest... can you differentiate simply what's real and what's not? When you open your eyes in the morning after a restless sleep of dreams, is the representation of your fears and pleasures tangible? Do you ever look at the surroundings in your bedroom upon waking and wonder if you have awoken from a wild dream or if you're still encased in its adventure amidst the interior of your cranium? In Beautiful Days, author Zach Williams presents a short story collection filled with aspects of fatherhood and manhood, thoughts of suicide, and loss of spousal companionship, wrapped in a warm blanket of fleeting unconscious thoughts. 


— From Alexandra K.'s Recs


From New Yorker and Paris Review contributor Zach Williams comes a striking and savage debut story collection that confronts parenthood, mortality, and life’s broken promises.

A couple awakens in a home in the woods to find themselves rapidly aging as their toddler remains unchanged. A work-worn employee navigates conspiracy theories and the threat of violence in an abandoned office. A tour guide leads a troublesome group to an ancient structure, apparently nonhuman in origin, discovering along the way that the most mysterious creatures of all are right beside him.

These ten stories show the fallibility of time and how reality reveals itself behind the gauze of a dream—or a nightmare. Throughout, Williams illustrates how quickly we come to the edges of our patience and endurance, the hidden damages lurking in the shadows of the everyday, the distances we must travel to protect our families, and the tenuousness of even our deepest relationships. Williams sees the perversity in the mundane and dares readers to confront the power—and beauty—of time’s relentless movement.

With exquisite prose and a lacerating wit, Beautiful Days holds a mirror to the many absurdities of being human and refuses to let us look away.

About the Author

ZACH WILLIAMS is a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University, where he previously held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. His story "Trial Run" was one of three that won The Paris Review a 2023 ASME Award for Fiction. Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, he currently resides with his family in San Francisco.

Praise For…

One of The New Yorker's Best Books We've Read in 2024 So Far

One of Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of Publisher's Weekly's 10 Promising Fiction Debuts of Spring 2024

“Beautiful Days is one of the year’s best debuts. . .a glorious creepfest reminiscent of speculative collections by Carmen Maria Machado, Mariana Enríquez and other children of Lovecraft....Williams sees beyond newspaper headlines to a world cleaved apart by forces we’ve unleashed, blinkered by arrogance and greed. . .Beautiful Days is the spear tip of his potential. This writer’s got talent to burn.” —Hamilton Cain, The Washington Post

"Nothing thrills a book reviewer more than a debut book so electrifying, so original, such an auspicious announcement of a major talent, that it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. I am delighted to say that Zach Williams’s story collection, Beautiful Days, is such a debut… The stories’ subjects seem to have bubbled up from a fertile, teeming, uninhibited subconscious, and yet the prose is precise, musical, and exquisitely calibrated for maximum effect.” The Boston Globe

“At least once every year, a debut short-story collection comes along and gets under my skin. . . In 2024, that collection is Beautiful Days. . .a subtle and speculative barn-burner that fans of Stephen King and Ling Ma will devour.” —Esquire

“Remarkable. . . Revelatory. . . Williams's tales deserve favorable comparison to the stories of Wells Tower and George Saunders.” Publishers Weekly *starred review*

Beautiful Days. . .makes the case for a new adage: strange fiction can help us tell the truth....a writer who will be around for a long time.” Chicago Review of Books

“There’s a quiet intensity to the way Zach Williams crafts short fiction, like a coiled spring ready to snap, or a snake about to strike. . .His prose is precise, witty and full of vivid imagery, with a gift for marrying tension and humanity that calls to mind John Cheever or Shirley Jackson. That makes Beautiful Days a powerful, unsettling, genuinely thrilling collection, one that singles Williams out as a must-read voice in fiction.” BookPage *starred review*

“A brilliant debut.” —Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Marriage Plot

“Zach Williams is a brilliant, singular, deep, and deeply entertaining writer. You will continue to think about and feel these stories long after you have finished reading them. They will change you.” —Jonathan Safran Foer, New York Times bestseller and author of Here I Am

“Beautiful Days is a remarkable collection. These stories are full of irony and absurdity, but are never sleight, glib or waggish. Zach Williams paints us into every story with quick, deft strokes and then unfolds, with a scarily confident hand, the rest of the canvas, full of surprises and truths and stuff we never imagined.” —Percival Everett, Booker Prize finalist and author of James

“Beautiful Days brings a reader though strange and grounded lands on just the other side of reality. You will come through changed, shaken, thoughtful, and totally amazed.” —Samantha Hunt, author of The Unwritten Book

[Zach Williams's] beautiful, disquieting stories are profound in the true meaning of that word—they go deep. He's a major exciting debut.” —Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears, Red Pill and Blue Ruin

Beautiful Days contains elegant mysteries, and the book stays in the mind long after you've read it.” —Charles Baxter, author of The Sun Collective

“The visionary weirdness of these stories feels hauntingly attuned to our time.” —Elizabeth Tallent, author of Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

“Wide-eyed on the world and its often mystical ways, there’s a sparkle of magic and mystery in every elegant sentence of these wondrously curious, unsettling, and absolutely original stories. I devoured them with pure delight—and with awe for this writer’s singular imagination and talent." —Chang-rae Lee, author of My Year Abroad

“[A] bracing debut. . . Much like George Saunders, Williams develops setups rooted in equal parts absurdity and peril. . . determined to metaphorically work through the fear and feelings of disassociation from modern life. . . Lyrical, well-crafted, offbeat yarns.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Provocative.” Booklist
Product Details
ISBN: 9780385550147
ISBN-10: 0385550146
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English