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  • Published: 11 July 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241999479
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

Beautiful Days

Thrillingly original and deeply surreal - uncanny stories about manhood and modern America

A young family are trapped in a time loop in an idyllic holiday cabin. A middle-aged man becomes convinced that his disappointing son is an impostor. Two brothers take a midnight ride in a golf cart and run into trouble. The elderly tour guide at an alien contact site loses control of his guests. Meanwhile, all around them, America is dissolving, fragmenting, distorting beyond recognition.

The antiheroes of Beautiful Days are chronic underachievers, lost in their own lives and plagued by loneliness, self-doubt, toxic rage. They gaze on the world with both wonder and horror, longing for transcendence or salvation. They tune in to the faint buzz of anxiety which seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. And when the worst happens, they take to the road - criss-crossing the wilderness in stolen cars, riding trains to the end of the line, or cruising along ruined monorails as the skyline burns.

Zach Williams' stories are haunted by the ghosts of America - its lost illusions, its dark aspirations, its boundless, disquieting potential. They leak through the fabric of reality and out into the void beyond. And they reach, ever-hopeful, towards a moment of connection that might pull a body back from the brink.

  • Published: 11 July 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241999479
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

Praise for Beautiful Days

A brilliant debut

Jeffrey Eugenides, author of 'The Virgin Suicides'

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'

Eerie, unsettling, and beautiful. You can’t predict where the stories will go – or who, or what, will be the half-visible presence there. Beautiful Days contains elegant mysteries, and stays in the mind long after you’ve read it

Charles Baxter, author of 'The Sun Collective'

Every so often a writer comes along who seems to have access to something not quite rational, some tone or feeling that lies under the surface of things. Zach Williams is such a writer. His beautiful, disquieting stories are profound in the true meaning of that word – they go deep. He's a major talent, and this is an exciting debut

Hari Kunzru, author of 'Red Pill'

A remarkable collection, full of irony and absurdity, but 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, author of 'The Trees'

These stories are elegies for days yet to arrive, which Zach Williams can somehow see coming. His stories are strangely infused with emotions that as yet have no names, because they are only now, in Beautiful Days, finding representation on the page. The visionary weirdness of the stories feels hauntingly attuned to our time. Because I read them headlong, one after the other, it was some time after closing the book before I began to grasp what had happened — I was still in them. They are not really short stories at all, but worlds impossible to leave

Elizabeth Tallent, author of 'Scratched'

Zach Williams is a brilliant, singular, 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, author of 'Everything is Illuminated'

Bracing, eerie, infused with contemporary paranoia... Zach Williams is determined to work through the fear and feelings of disassociation from modern life, rooted in equal parts absurdity and peril


A powerful, unsettling, genuinely thrilling collection that singles Zach Williams out as a must-read voice in fiction... Like a coiled spring ready to snap, or a snake about to strike, you can sense tension lurking in the careful prose and dreamy strangeness of his worlds... Precise, witty and full of vivid imagery, with a gift for marrying tension and humanity that calls to mind John Cheever or Shirley Jackson


Unsettling and deeply captivating... A remarkable debut collection [which] explores grief and masculinity in stories that hint at their characters’ strange afterlives... Beautiful Days deserves favorable comparison to the stories of Wells Tower and George Saunders

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

One of 2024’s superlative debuts, a glorious creepfest reminiscent of Carmen Maria Machado and Mariana Enríquez... Williams’s characters grapple with grief and foreboding... [his] technique is subtle but strikes with a bullwhip’s torque... As close to transcendence as it gets, Beautiful Days is the spear tip of Zach Williams' potential. This writer’s got talent to burn

Washington Post

Uncanny, subtle and spectacular. Once every year, a debut collection comes along and gets under my skin... In 2024, that collection is Beautiful Days. Fans of Stephen King and Ling Ma will devour [these stories] about the horrors of encountering something completely unknowable in the course of everyday life, whether it’s the mind-warping experience of parenthood or the echo-chamber effect of the internet and social media


A pensive, artfully of-the-moment short story collection in which danger and farce tussle for dominance. . . Expect offbeat lyricism, dreamlike paranoia and more than a hint of horror


[An] accomplished collection. . . Raw and off-kilter but studded with moments of transcendent beauty. With a first book this fantastic, Williams is a writer to watch

Esquire, 'Best Books of Summer 2024'

It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. But Beautiful Days makes the case for a new adage: strange fiction can help us tell the truth. . . The entire collection is varied, yet focused; serious, yet throw-your-head-back funny; virtuosic in the way of a writer who will be around for a long time. . . It calls to mind Donald Barthelme, George Saunders, and Jennifer Egan. Like these writers, Williams uses his strange and scary premises to reveal the persistent humanity of his characters

Chicago Review of Books