Season One

Unknown Friends: Season One archives

Six Strategies for Reading More Books in 2021 (Bonus Episode) — Jan. 1, 2021

  • Anyone wanting to improve their reading habits in 2021? I’m sharing six simple strategies that have helped me over the last two years to make more time for reading than I ever did before, and I hope these ideas will be useful for you too.

Delivery & The House of Christmas: Two Poems (Christmas episode) — Jan. 1, 2021

  • This Christmas Eve, I wanted to share with you a couple of poems that I hope will comfort and uplift you. Please enjoy my original sonnet, “Delivery,” and one of my very favorite Advent poems, “The House of Christmas” by G. K. Chesterton.

The 3 Best Books of Season One (Bonus Episode) — Nov. 25, 2020

  • After reviewing 32 books since launching Unknown Friends in April, in this bonus episode I’m highlighting my very favorite books from the podcast’s first season. Tune in to learn which 3 books get my highest recommendation, along with a few honorable mentions that I couldn’t leave out!

Ep. 30: The choice between heaven and hell in The Great Divorce — Nov. 18, 2020

  • C. S. Lewis, in his 1945 novella The Great Divorce, uses a purely imaginative journey into hell and heaven to shine light on the essential choice we each face every day of our lives: Thy will be done? or my will be done?

Ep. 29: Science, art, and wonder in All the Light We Cannot See — Nov. 11, 2020

  • Anthony Doerr’s enthralling novel set in World War II traces the lives of a German boy and a French girl and reminds us to notice and appreciate the marvels, natural and manmade, all around us.

Ep. 28: Moments and meetings in Mrs. Dalloway — Nov. 4, 2020

  • My sister LaRae joins me from the United Kingdom this week to discuss high literary modernism, Shakespearean tragedy, and more in Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Ep. 27: Making our home on earth in Hannah Coulter — Oct. 28, 2020

  • Though advocating many Christian values, Wendell Berry’s 2004 novel Hannah Coulter lacks the essence of Christianity—close relationship with God—and instead embraces an almost pagan mindset of seeking fulfillment in earthly places and people.

Ep. 26: Ruthlessness and empathy in Ender’s Game — Oct. 21, 2020

  • In his 1985 military science-fiction novel Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card follows a brilliant young boy as he trains to be a battle commander while struggling against his own capacity for violence.

Ep. 25: Asking the right questions in The Magician’s Elephant — Oct. 14, 2020

  • Kate DiCamillo’s 2009 children’s novel The Magician’s Elephant follows its young hero, Peter Augustus Duchene, through a vibrant cast of characters all striving to find hope amid despair and truth among lies.

Ep. 24: Servants and victims in Little Dorrit — Oct. 7, 2020

  • Charles Dickens in his novel Little Dorrit, published serially from 1855 to 1857, presents a number of characters who are or imagine themselves to be victims–but their responses to hardship couldn’t be more varied.

Ep. 23: “Destroyed but not defeated” in The Old Man and the Sea — Sept. 30, 2020

  • In his classic 1952 novella, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway depicts in his austere but expressive writing style a deeply compelling central character, the unlucky but unconquerable old man Santiago.

Ep. 22: Medieval myth and Biblical questions in The Book of the Dun Cow — Sept. 23, 2020

  • Drawing inspiration from medieval animal fables, The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. depicts a mythical war between good and evil, while exploring themes of self-pity and self-sacrifice reminiscent of Job and Jonah.

Ep. 21: Hasidism, Modern Orthodoxy, and friendship in The Chosen — Sept. 9, 2020

  • The Chosen, Chaim Potok’s novel about two Jewish boys growing up in 1940s New York, explores Judaism’s place in the modern world, along with themes of friendship, learning, and communication.

Ep. 20: The beauty of restraint in Sense and Sensibility — Sept. 2, 2020

  • In her debut novel, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen contrasts two sisters, one with much to learn, the other with much to teach us about steadiness, thoughtfulness, and self-restraint.

Ep. 19: Media and thought control in The Space Merchants — Aug. 26, 2020

  • Science fiction authors Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth co-authored their satirical novel The Space Merchants in 1952, foreseeing with remarkable accuracy a world willingly enslaved by advertising and media.

Ep. 18: Overturning the world in The Poet and the Lunatics — Aug. 19, 2020

  • In G. K. Chesterton’s 1929 set of mystery stories, The Poet and the Lunatics, his poet-sleuth Gabriel Gale turns the world upside down to help us straighten our skewed vision of reality.

Ep. 17: Duty and destiny in Roderick Hudson — Aug. 5, 2020

  • American author Henry James, whose works bridged the Victorian and modern literary eras, juxtaposes two men with opposite notions of work and responsibility in his 1875 novel Roderick Hudson.

Ep. 16: One strange, nostalgic summer in Dandelion Wine — Jul. 29, 2020

  • Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury’s unusual tale imagining the summer of 1928 through a 12-year-old’s eyes, sheds light on themes of friendship and happiness amid darker questions of loss, failure, and fear.

Ep. 15: Classic British humour in Three Men in a Boat & Leave It to Psmith — Jul. 22, 2020

  • In these two comic novels from Jerome K. Jerome and P. G. Wodehouse, delightful characters and absurd misadventures work together to charm readers with their timeless humor.

Ep. 14: Serving a strange land in Death Comes for the Archbishop — Jul. 15, 2020

  • In my review of Death Comes for the Archbishop, one of Willa Cather’s “Catholic novels,” I discuss the book’s episodic structure and its main characters’ inspiring commitment to their missionary calling.

Ep. 13: Thinking more of others in Wives and Daughters — Jul. 8, 2020

  • In her “every-day story” Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell crafts fascinating characters that demonstrate the selflessness of love and the nobility of steady goodness.

Bonus Episode: Ep. 1-12 Outtakes! — Jul. 6, 2020

  • Enjoy these bloopers and “behind the mic” clips from my first dozen episodes of Unknown Friends—a little piece of fun to celebrate the fifth birthday of my company Kittywham Productions!

Ep. 12: Folly and integrity in The House of Mirth — Jul. 1, 2020

  • Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel The House of Mirth rings true today with its depiction of a manipulative society and a conflicted heroine, both of whom choose to believe what they wish to be true.

Ep. 11: “A blazing song of innocence” in Peace Like a River — Jun. 24, 2020

  • My favorite read so far this year, thanks to the palpable faith of one central character: Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River blends Zane Grey, Homer, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the King James Bible to shape a remarkable story about a family looking for a lost son and finding what they didn’t know they needed. 

Ep. 10: Conscience, corruption, and reform in The Warden — Jun. 17, 2020

  • Good men are not hard to find in Anthony Trollope’s The Warden, the first novel in his Chronicles of Barsetshire; but this story, relevant today, reveals the complex moral dilemmas good men may face when they encounter or inherit flawed systems.

Ep. 9: Prodigal sons and everyday wonders in Gilead — Jun. 10, 2020

  • Marilynne Robinson’s 2004 novel Gilead prompts a discussion of Christianity in contemporary fiction, relationships between fathers and sons, and the loveliness of mundane things.

Ep. 8: Self-knowledge and “direct desire” in A Room with a View — Jun. 3, 2020

  • This week I explore the theme of self-understanding in E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel A Room with a View, drawing comparisons and contrasts to Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady.

Ep. 7: Patience and communication in Persuasion — May 27, 2020

  • LaRae returns as my guest to discuss romance and moral education in Jane Austen’s last published novel, Persuasion.

Ep. 6: A Praying Life & Women of the Word (nonfiction special) — May 20, 2020

  • In this special episode featuring works of Christian nonfiction by Paul Miller and Jen Wilkin, I share these authors’ insights into praying like a child and reading the Bible like a student.

Ep. 5: Unspoken tragedy in Never Let Me Go — May 13, 2020

  • In this episode I discuss a few key themes from Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go, including mortality, memory, and hope, as well as Ishiguro’s uniquely understated writing style.

Ep. 4: Young Charles Dickens and The Pickwick Papers — May 6, 2020

  • In Episode 4, featuring Charles Dickens’s first novel, The Pickwick Papers, I introduce Dickens as a fledgling author and tell the story of how this book ever came to be published.

Ep. 3: Shared stories in Navigating Early — Apr. 29, 2020

  • Today I review Clare Vanderpool’s most recent children’s book, Navigating Early, with its universal themes of loss and friendship.

Ep. 2: Growing up together in Little Women — Apr. 22, 2020

  • My sister LaRae and I discuss Louisa May Alcott’s classic for children, Little Women, reflecting on Alcott’s portrayal of the growing up process and the book’s impact on our own childhood.

Ep. 1: Encountering the divine in Till We Have Faces — Apr. 15, 2020

  • In my opening episode I discuss C. S. Lewis’s last published novel, Till We Have Faces, exploring the book’s key questions of what love is and whether God is silent.