book review: Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on EarthThe basics: The sub-title of Radio Shangri-La could easily be 'What I Learned About Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth.' Lisa Napoli's fascinating memoir takes her from a chance encounter at a Manhattan dinner party to Bhutan, where she uses her career in radio to assist Bhutan's new (and only) radio station.

My thoughts: I confess, before I read Radio Shangri-La, I could find Bhutan on a map, but I knew next to nothing about its people, history, and customs. Ultimately, I would call it a travel memoir, and I learned as much about Bhutan as I did about Lisa. Lisa is quite candid about her own happiness, both personally and professionally. Originally from New York, she's in her early 40's and working for public radio in Los Angeles. Lisa's fascination with Bhutan is partly universal but partly intensely personal. Internet and television are recent additions to Bhutan, and Lisa appreciated a certain simplicity of life.

The changes in Bhutan are a topic of much consideration in this memoir. Bhutan is becoming more westernized (or modernized). I was fascinated by this shift in Bhutanese thinking and culture. Lisa Napoli provided a wonderful window into Bhutan and achieved a lovely balance of personal narrative and Bhutanese narrative. I got the sense the people she encountered and befriended in Bhutan would be as welcoming to you or me (if we could ever secure the elusive tourist visas and manage to pay the $200/day tourist tax to visit Bhutan ourselves.)

The verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lisa's personal journey as well as experiencing my own personal journey learning about Bhutan.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: February 8, 2011
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours (the entire tour schedule is here)

Want to learn more about Lisa? Check out her website, follow her on Twitter, visit Radio Shangri-La's Facebook page, and her blog about Bhutan. Lisa is also happy to Skype with book clubs (or visit you in person if you're in Los Angeles!)

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!


  1. You know, I have to be honest when I say that I have never even heard of Bhutan! It sounds like this book would be an excellent read though, and teach me a lot about a place that I know nothing about. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it, and your review was wonderful!

  2. Great review Carrie :)
    I received this book last week and am anxious to read it, especially seeing how much you liked it and how well she merged her personal story with that of the Bhutanese people.

  3. I'm so glad you liked this because I have this on my shelf to read. I am really intrigued by this story since I know soon absolutely nothing about Bhutan and I love reading about new to me places.

  4. This sounds like an interesting book-- honestly, it'd take me a while to find Bhutan on a map.

    I like learning about new places and interesting people, and this sounds like a good bet.

  5. Nice review -- I'm always on the fence about books like this b/c I sometimes envy the narrator too much to concentrate! ;)

  6. This looks fabulous. I love memoirs, and have put it on my TBR. Thanks for your review!

  7. I'm so glad to see you liked this one. I received it I the mail last week. I'm looking forward to reading it now.

  8. This sounds excellent! I learned a bit about Bhutan in a book I read on happiness and have been curious about the country since.

  9. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for being on the tour!


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