The best books for casual (or non) readers

Why am I passionate about this?

I despise long-winded books with an electoral roll of characters or characters with unnecessarily complex names. Reading should be a pleasure, not a chore. High school does its best to suck the joy out of reading with its “what did the author mean here?” nonsense. If the reader has to guess what the author means, the author failed to tell their story. Symbolism and hidden meanings are a joke. I won’t read pretentious books that people only read so they can say they’ve read them. One of the reasons I started writing was to reach people who ended up as non-readers because high school ruined reading for them.


I wrote...

Sleep with One Eye Open

By Beau Johnston,

Book cover of Sleep with One Eye Open

What is my book about?

My book is about the Zombie Apocalypse and is set in modern-day Australia. The average Australian has no access to firearms and isn’t even legally able to carry a pocketknife (I also avoided the cliché of instantaneous proficiency with a katana). Incorporating these pre-existing challenges created some scary situations and required creative problem-solving from the characters. The outbreak begins in Sydney but quickly spreads beyond the city limits. 

While writing, I kept the violence realistic, the gore non-gratuitous, and ensured none of the characters were over-the-top action heroes. Characters make mistakes, and mistakes have consequences. If you’re looking for an entertaining tale that may just improve your chances of surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, then look no further…..

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Beau Johnston Why did I love this book?

This book is a fantastic collection of short stories about the Zombie Apocalypse. Some of the stories broach the subject of corruption, which enabled a local epidemic to spread globally.

I first read this book in 2006 with an “imagine if…..” frame of mind, but I watched world events unfold in 2020 from the perspective of “life imitating art.” I loved the author’s conversational style of storytelling and the believable characters he described. There are no hardcore action heroes, just regular people.

By Max Brooks,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked World War Z as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginning of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse.

Faced with a future of mindless man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the ten-year fight against the horde, World War Z brings the finest traditions of journalism to bear on what is…


Book cover of Dawn of the Dead

Beau Johnston Why did I love this book?

It's a great read for a cold winter night or a lazy Sunday afternoon. The zombies are slow, methodical, and relentless. I prefer Romero's slow-shambling zombies over Hollywood’s gold-medal-winning sprint demons.

The story revels in claustrophobic tension with plenty of action, stealth, and more zombies than you can throw a pie at (you’ll only get that if you’ve seen the original movie). The story is faithful to the movie, and it was fun to space the book out over a couple of nights.

By George A. Romero,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dawn of the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WHEN THE END OF THE WORLD COMES, WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?

The classic horror that inspired a genre: if you haven't read this yet, you need to. If you have, you'll want to again. Includes a brilliant and exclusive introduction from Simon Pegg.

When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.

George A. Romero's iconic film and novel terrified generations.

Now Dawn of the Dead is back to terrify once more.

The world is being devastated by zombies. No one knows how far they have spread, or how to stop them. And as…


Book cover of The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories

Beau Johnston Why did I love this book?

I love Tim Burton’s movies. His book of poems and short stories is just as good as his movies (don’t let the poems aspect put you off). I’m not a fan of poetry, but this collection of twisted tales is great (especially if you read them in your head in Christopher Lee’s voice).

As a bonus, the book is packed with Tim’s off-beat artwork (which matches the characters perfectly). I love the strange and unusual. To quote Lydia (from Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice), “I myself am strange and unusual.”

By Tim Burton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty-three illustrated gothic tales from the dark corridors of the imagination of Tim Burton. Burton - the creative genius behind Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Nightmare Before Christmas, among others - now gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children: misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and tragedy of these hopeful, yet hapless beings.


Book cover of Skulduggery Pleasant

Beau Johnston Why did I love this book?

Originally, I was looking for a book series to get my 12-year-old (non-reader) nephew interested in reading. The cover art is great, and the description, “a smart-ass skeleton detective and a secret magic world, in the shadows of the real world,” piqued my interest. Yes, an actual walking, talking skeleton.

I first purchased a copy for myself so I would know if it was appropriate for him. I enjoyed reading it so much that I went out the next day and bought him the first four books in the series. They became the first books he voluntarily read. I love the depictions of magic (and magical creatures) in the real world and the constant battle to keep regular humans ignorant of the events that take place virtually right in front of them. 

By Derek Landy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Skulduggery Pleasant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

She's twelve. He's dead. But together they're going to save the world. Hopefully.

The iconic first book in the bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series.

Stephanie's uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror, it certainly wasn't fiction.

Pursued by evil forces, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source - the wisecracking skeleton of a dead sorcerer...


Book cover of Death World

Beau Johnston Why did I love this book?

The story is set in the Warhammer 40’000 universe, but anyone can read it without feeling lost. I love the way the author subverts the reader’s expectation from a story of “military squad Vs. monster” to “military squad Vs. everything-on-the-planet.”

A fantastic blend of (John Carpenter’s) The Thing and Predator. An enjoyable and easy-to-read tale of claustrophobic, slow-burning tension and Hollywood 80s action hero. I loved the ever-increasing sense of paranoia they endure by gradually discovering that absolutely everything wants to kill them.

By Steve Lyons,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A squad of Catachan Jungle Fighters is sent to the deathworld of Rogar III in response to an ork incursion. But, as well as dealing with the orks, they must do battle the planet itself ¿ not to the mention the mysterious figures that stalk them across the deadly terrain.


You might also like...

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

Book cover of Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

Patrick G. Cox Author Of Ned Farrier Master Mariner: Call of the Cape

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

On the expertise I claim only a deep interest in history, leadership, and social history. After some thirty-six years in the fire and emergency services I can, I think, claim to have seen the best and the worst of human behaviour and condition. History, particularly naval history, has always been one of my interests and the Battle of Jutland is a truly fascinating study in the importance of communication between the leader and every level between him/her and the people performing whatever task is required.  In my own career, on a very much smaller scale, this is a lesson every officer learns very quickly.

Patrick's book list on the Battle of Jutland

What is my book about?

Captain Heron finds himself embroiled in a conflict that threatens to bring down the world order he is sworn to defend when a secretive Consortium seeks to undermine the World Treaty Organisation and the democracies it represents as he oversees the building and commissioning of a new starship.

When the Consortium employs an assassin from the Pantheon, it becomes personal.

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

What is this book about?

The year is 2202, and the recently widowed Captain James Heron is appointed to stand by his next command, the starship NECS Vanguard, while she is being built. He and his team soon discover that they are battling the Consortium, a shadowy corporate group that seeks to steal the specs for the ship’s new super weapon. The Consortium hires the Pantheon, a mysterious espionage agency, to do their dirty work as they lay plans to take down the Fleet and gain supreme power on an intergalactic scale. When Pantheon Agent Bast and her team kidnap Felicity Rowanberg, a Fleet agent…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in humour books, funny, and war?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about humour books, funny, and war.

Humour Books Explore 1,854 books about humour books
Funny Explore 1,854 books about funny
War Explore 1,863 books about war