Mae Clair’s Top 10 Reads of 2021: One Through Five

smart cat sits near a stack of books on a white background

Hello, and welcome to the final half of my Top 10 Reads for 2021. If you missed books six through ten, you can find them HERE.

All of the books I’m sharing are five-star reads. Each is linked to Amazon where you can read the blurb and explore reviews. I’ve included a few brief thoughts on each. 

Fun Fact 1:
I read book two on this list in January of 2021. It held the top spot as my favorite until December when a late-in-the year-read bumped it to number two. That’s a long time to be numero uno, especially given I’d read over 100 books by then!

Fun Fact 2:
I enjoyed all of these books so much, I purchased each in hardback or trade paperback, despite having read ebook copies of most.



5. IN THE SHADOW OF JEZEBEL by Mesu Andrews
A riveting journey of faith following Jehosheba, the granddaughter of Jezebel, who has been groomed to become a high priestess of Baal. Through an arranged marriage, she weds the high priest of God’s holy temple. The story presents a mix of warring kingdoms, political maneuvering, betrayals, and the rise and fall of rulers, all the while remaining truthful to the Old Testament and historic events.

4. FALLING by T.J. Newman
A pulse-pounding thrill ride about an airline pilot forced to decide between crashing his plane full of passengers or saving his wife and children who have been taken hostage by terrorists. I can’t say enough about the frantic pace in which the last half plays out. Falling is already slated for the big screen.

3. CHASING THE BOGEYMAN by Richard Chizmar
It’s the summer of 1988 and a serial killer haunts a small town. I can be squeamish about books with serial killers, but there is nothing overly graphic in this novel. Chills, goose bumps, suspense, and tension abound. In Chizmer’s skillful hands, the book becomes mystery, thriller, and a haunting tale of small-town life that lingers long after finishing. 

2. LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam
Most reviewers either loved or hated this book with little room for middle ground. It’s a curious, sometimes annoying, but fully engrossing story about two couples (one white, one black, strangers to each other) who end up stranded together after an unknown event has knocked out phones, internet, and power. All the reader knows is that something terrible has happened. Something big. By turns eerie, mesmerizing, and crass, the atmosphere is what makes this book so outstanding—and disturbing.

MY TOP PICK FOR 2021 WITH FULL REVIEW

ISAIAH’S DAUGHTER
by Mesu Andrews

When it comes to historical novels, there are two time periods I love best—Victorian England and Old Testament times.

Starting in mid-November through the end of 2021, I devoured fourteen novels based on the lives of people who populated the Old Testament. Of them all, Isaiah’s Daughter moved me enough to claim top honors as my favorite read of the year. Maybe it’s because I’m so drawn to the story of King Hezekiah.

From his frightening childhood, as son to a father/king who worshiped idols and sacrificed children to the pagan god Molek by tossing them into fire, to the difficulties he faced during his own reign—especially against the Assyrian army—Hezekiah placed his faith in God for deliverance. At his side, supporting him with steadfast love, his wife, Hephzibah, was every bit as faithful. 

The story of Isaiah’s Daughter follows both from the time they are children—in a world of constant upheaval and danger—to their eventual marriage and adult years. The challenges each faces is staggering. The Bible tells us that because of his great faith, Hezekiah “was successful in whatever he undertook” and that “there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”

What astounds me most is the way in which the author has brought these people to life in a very personal sense. There is nothing stuffy, stilted, or draggy about this book. Both “Hezi” and “Zibah” are given vibrant life, along with many other historical figures and several fictional characters. The insight to Isaiah’s life as a prophet is particularly compelling, especially when balanced against his home life as a husband and father. The result is mesmerizing while delivering a message about the everyday struggles of faith we face. 

Certain parts had me as tense as a bowstring and I couldn’t read fast enough. Others made me laugh or warmed my heart to overflowing, and still others left me saddened by circumstance. Most of all, I was inspired and uplifted. I found it hard to put this book down and can’t recommend it highly enough. I would give it ten stars if I could! 


And that wraps up my top picks for 2021. I’m looking forward to discovering many new stories in the coming year and passing along my reviews. The great thing about books is the extraordinary variety which helps all of us find our own “goodreads.” I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of mine.