Radio Shangri-La: Book summary and reviews of Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

Radio Shangri-La

What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

by Lisa Napoli

Radio Shangri-La

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About this book

Book Summary

Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan - said to be one of the happiest places on earth.
 
Long isolated from industrialization and just beginning to open its doors to the modern world, Bhutan is a deeply spiritual place, devoted to environmental conservation and committed to the happiness of its people - in fact, Bhutan measures its success in Gross National Happiness rather than in GNP. In a country without a single traffic light, its citizens are believed to be among the most content in the world. To Lisa, it seemed to be a place that offered the opposite of her fast-paced life in the United States, where the noisy din of sound-bite news and cell phones dominate our days, and meaningful conversation is a rare commodity; where everyone is plugged in digitally, yet rarely connects with the people around them.
 
Thousands of miles away from everything and everyone she knows, Lisa creates a new community for herself. As she helps to start Bhutan’s first youth-oriented radio station, Kuzoo FM, she must come to terms with her conflicting feelings about the impact of the medium on a country that had been shielded from its effects. Immersing herself in Bhutan’s rapidly changing culture, Lisa realizes that her own perspective on life is changing as well - and that she is discovering the sense of purpose and joy that she has been yearning for.
 
In this smart, heartfelt, and beautifully written book, sure to please fans of transporting travel narratives and personal memoirs alike, Lisa Napoli discovers that the world is a beautiful and complicated place - and comes to appreciate her life for the adventure it is.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Napoli's adventures at home and abroad, in nature and career and spirit, will delight readers." - Publishers Weekly

"A refreshingly uplifting book." - Kirkus Reviews

"Napoli's fluid, elegant, and vivid prose draws readers into this special geographical place and illustrates the value of soul searching." - Library Journal

"In a lot of ways, Lisa Napoli’s Radio Shangri-La reminded me of Deborah Rodriguez's 2007 bestselling Kabul Beauty School. Only better, if for no other reason than the writing here is just so sharp and terrific.

"Radio Shangri-La is a beautiful, touching and deeply compelling memoir by a well-known public radio reporter who arrived in the tranquil kingdom of Bhutan to help establish the nation's first radio station and, as important, to further her own mid-life assessment of a life that felt full of missteps.  The book is delightful reading--honest, moving and quietly spiritual as it offers both an intimate portrait of a country only halfway to modernity and a soul in quest of meaning." - Scott Turow, author of Innocent

"Radio Shangri-La grabs you by the heart and takes you on a winding dual journey - into the self and into a fairy tale kingdom known for measuring happiness as its gross national product. Charming, illuminating, and often ironic, this memoir is a continuous discovery of myths and realities in finding deeper personal meaning." - Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and Saving Fish from Drowning

"Radio Shangri-La  has shades of Pico Iyer and Bruce Chatwin and a similar genius for parachuting the reader into a strange land and culture.  Bhutan has long fascinated me and Radio Shangri-La is the perfect vehicle to get there." – Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone.

The information about Radio Shangri-La shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Laurette A. (New York)

Visiting the "Happiest Place on Earth"
"Radio Shangri-La" is part travel guide, part historical narrative and part adventure story, and well worth reading. As a journalist, Lisa Napoli was long acquainted with the hustle and bustle of working in the media profession, but nothing had prepared her for life in Bhutan, and in "Radio Shangri-La" she shares her extraordinary experiences with the readers. An unexpected encounter leads to her invitation to visit the tiny Himalayan nation dubbed "the happiest place on earth" and volunteer as a consultant at the start-up radio station Kuzoo FM; a station so young and new that by comparison, the average middle-class teenager in the U.S. had an iPod with a bigger hard drive than the one that engined Kuzoo. Bhutan is a poor nation, but as Ms. Napoli learns, it is overflowing with a sense of community and interconnectedness and it doesn't take her long to fall in love with the country and its people. In the course of her time there she comes to realize that the ingredients for happiness are simple: giving, loving, and contentment with where you are and who you are. I highly recommend you read this book and experience a little bit of Bhutan for yourself.

Betty T. (Warner Robins, Georgia)

Happiness Achieved!
Lisa Napoli's description of "the happiest place on earth" certainly made me happy. Ms. Napoli writes beautifully of her visits to Bhutan, a Himalayan kingdom that few are privileged to visit. Her descriptions reminded me of my visits to Thailand where I found the people and the land to be utterly charming. The king of Bhutan works hard to preserve the culture even as the Western world slowly invades the land. Once television was allowed into Bhutan there was no stopping this invasion. There is also the first-time visit to America from one of Ms. Napoli's new Bhutanese friends. We "see" America through Ngawang's eyes which is sometimes humorous and sometimes very revealing of our values.

Michael P. (San Marcos, CA)

Very enjoyable
One of the few books that had me nodding and smiling in agreement with the author as I read along. I was so "in sync" with the feelings and emotions Ms. Napoli used to describe her life at the mid-career point that I felt validated that I wasn't the only one who was experiencing the world the way I do. This sense of identification with an author happens very rarely for me so I really enjoyed the book. Highly recommended.

Prella M. (Lafayette, IN)

National Happiness
Lisa Napoli, on her own quest to find contentment and satisfaction with her life, travels to Bhutan to aid the national radio station. Her observations and insights on this delightful small Himalayan kingdom make interesting reading. For me, it was a trip down memory lane to remember a wonderful vacation I had there some years ago. I recommend this for all arm chair travelers who wish to know more about other parts of the world or prospective visitors.

Mary H. (Okemos, MI)

Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, The Happiest Kingdom on Earth.
Like many memoirists these days, when Lisa Napoli experienced a mid-life crisis, she jumped at an opportunity to travel to a remote part of the world – in this case, Bhutan. My favorite parts of the book were her nuggets of information about this tiny Himalayan country: why the Bhutanese paint phalluses on their buildings, the extreme spiciness of the food, why the University of Texas at El Paso designs all their buildings in the Bhutanese style (minus the phalluses, I assume) and the country’s serious pursuit of Gross National Happiness instead of a Gross Domestic Product. As she says, Bhutan was "an ancient, once-secluded kingdom now transitioning at warp speed". A few years ago TV was finally allowed in the country and it has brought images of the US –via Baywatch and Sex and the City. Will young Bhutanese's Gross National Happiness change?

I was interested in this book because I lead an International Book Discussion at the library where I work and we had just read another book about Bhutan. This was a fun and enjoyable read about current events in Bhutan, and I will recommend it to others in our group who want an update about this country, and any other armchair travelers.

Lynne B. (S. Lake Tahoe, CA)

Bhutan, the Happiest Place on Earth?
Author Lisa Napoli accepts an opportunity to travel to Bhutan, a little known third world country tucked into the Himalayas between India and China. One of the more unusual aspects of this country's governing philosophy is the notion of GNH or Gross National Happiness which means that quality of life is to take precedence over any attempt at financial gain. The most appealing part of this book was the exposure to the lifestyle, dreams and accomplishments of the citizens of this country which has attempted to remain isolated from the damaging influences of the Western world, especially internet and media control. However, over the course of several years covered in the story we come to learn that even tiny Bhutan is undergoing modernization due to the unavoidable exposure to television, internet and media attention. Another aspect of the story which is very unique is the experience of the Bhutanese when they come to the United States and discover unimaginable wealth and material goods, which results in both positive and negative effects. I found this book to be a pleasurable read which provides the reader with a chance to become immersed in the life and culture of real Bhutanese citizens and experience the wonder of an innocent people in a place that can truly be called the last Shangri-La.

...18 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Lisa Napoli is a journalist whose last staff job was on the public radio show Marketplace. An early chronicler of the dawn of the World Wide Web as a columnist at the New York Times CyberTimes, she has also been the Internet correspondent at MSNBC. She began her career at CNN, worked in local news in North Carolina, and has directed several documentaries about Southern culture. More about the book including photos from Bhutan can be found at www.LisaNapoli.com

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