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Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth Paperback – April 3, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307453030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307453037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Napoli met the handsome Sebastian at a cookbook party in New York City, she was intrigued by this man who traveled to Bhutan regularly. And when the accomplished L.A.-based journalist (MSNBC, CNN, public radio's Marketplace) researched the country about which he spoke so enthusiastically, she became entranced with Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom that sits between India and China. This country--dubbed "the happiest on earth" because of its focus on environmental and social progress--is hard to get to, with its remote location and governmental deterrents to tourism, like a per-person, per-day tourist tax. But a friend of Sebastian's needs help with startup radio station Kuzoo FM, so Napoli leaves L.A. and goes to Bhutan for six weeks. She writes, "After more than two decades of reducing even the most complex issues to 1,000 words or less, I was tired of observing life from a distance." While the author turns an eye on her own motivations (nothing further developed with Sebastian), she refrains from tortured navel-gazing and instead shares and reflects on Bhutan's people, history, and customs (from painting phalluses on houses to repel evil spirits to Buddhism's role in daily life). Napoli's adventures at home and abroad, in nature and career and spirit, will delight readers. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A successful journalist working for public radio in Los Angeles, Napoli hit a wall. Burned out and overwhelmed by regret, she wondered how to recharge her life. Enter a friend of a friend with connections to the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan. In 2006, this Buddhist kingdom, long cocooned against the outside world, launched a new youth radio station, Kuzoo FM (kuzoo zampo means hello). Would Napoli like to volunteer as a consultant? So begins a love affair with a land unlike any other, a bond that lifts Napoli out of her blues and enriches the lives of the young people with whom she works. The stories of the wildly popular station are charming and gracefully revealing as Napoli shares her experiences of Bhutan�s magnificent landscape, fiery cuisine, and openhanded daily life in a society that measures its achievements not with a Gross National Product but, rather, with Gross National Happiness. Napoli�s engaging, keenly observed, and informative chronicle captures Bhutan midmetamorphosis as it transforms itself into a democracy and as media and the Internet redefine the Bhutanese concept of contentment. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

When Lisa Napoli found herself unhappy with her work in the fast-paced U.S. media world, she volunteered to help start Bhutan's first youth-oriented radio station. Bhutan is a small kingdom in the Himalayas, surrounded by giants India and China; it's home to just 650,000 residents, most of whom make their living as subsistence farmers. The nation has experienced rapid change in the past forty years, becoming a democracy in 2008 after a century of monarchy.

In her time in Bhutan, Napoli learned more about the people, history and culture of the "last Buddhist kingdom" and the so-called "happiest kingdom on Earth," and she also learned quite a bit about herself: How to be grateful for what she has, instead of regretful for what she doesn't. How helping others is far more important than focusing on one's own narrow universe.

Earlier in her career, Lisa was the Internet correspondent for MSNBC, a columnist for, and the first staff reporter/columnist at the NY Times Cybertimes, now defunct. She's also worked at a division of the home shopping channel QVC, in craft services for the horror film Hellraiser 3, and in public relations for Summit House, an alternative to prison for women and their kids in Greensboro, North Carolina. She began her career at CNN in 1984.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Lisa is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Author photo credit:
Marty Katz,

Customer Reviews

Reading this book will certainly stir an interest to visit Bhutan.
A. Silverstone
This book gave us a very personal story by a very capable writer, while also giving us a glimpse at a different place and different way of life.
Larry Hochwald
This was a good follow up to Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said "I Do," and Found Bliss which I read last week.
Loves the View

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Lucard VINE VOICE on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I tend to enjoy travelogues that focus on weird things, like French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France or A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, and Radio Shangri-La was no exception. This was a book that was as entertaining as it was educational and inspirational and it convinced me to take a trip to Bhutan myself.

The entire book is about the life and times of Lisa Napoli when she decided to leave her public radio job in Los Angeles and go work for a radio station in the tiny Asian kingdom of Bhutan. There she regales us with stories about the people there, gives us comparisons and contrasts with Bhutan and the Western World, shows us how the country is rapidly changing and becoming Westernized (for good and for bad) and most of all, we see her fall in love with this obscure, almost unknown country. You also get to see the madness that ensues when one of her Bhutanese friends comes to visit her and the drama that unfolds there.

Overall, the entire book is one that is hard to put down. My only complaints is that Lisa Napoli starts to be really candid with aspects of her life such as being raped or hooking up with a guy, but then completely shuts the reader out regarding why a relationship ended. Twice she hooks up with someone that came into her life because of Bhutan and she spends a great deal of time talking about her attraction to them and the slow burn to actually becoming involved with them. Then right after she hits that climax...she says "and it just didn't work out." Then it's never mentioned again.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Chrysanthemum on July 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm writing this review as both a Bhutanese and a frequent reader.

I was sad to see numerous factual inaccuracies in the book. I would expect any author to verify facts before immortalizing it in a book, and more so an experienced journalist such as Napoli. It may have appeared inconsequential to her, being afterall parts of small anecdotes here and there, but combined they stand to misinform the reader. What was more disappointing to me and I know that several Bhutanese friends of mine who have also read the book share my sentiments, is that Napoli advertises the book as being about the "starting" of a Radio Station in the country from the ground up when this is NOT true. Kuzoo, the station in mention, was well set up and functioning a considerable time before her arrival. Her contributions to the station are certainly not to the extent that the author's advertising have us believe.

I also found it very misrepresentative of the country as a whole. Napoli's interactions with the Bhutanese were, from what I gather, limited to a small group of individuals. Basing all her research on these few experiences and interactions makes it, to me, rather lacking. I don't claim my country to be any so called "shangrila"-the irony being that none of us Bhutanese actually do-but to know more about it, all aspects of it, I wouldn't rely on this book. At least turn to authors who provide more depth in their portrayal of the country and people. There are so many facets to the country, any country for that matter, and it's always sad when a book barely grazes beyond the surface.

As a reader, I wouldn't say the prose was exceptional in any way. Like a previous reviewer mentioned, it read more like a series of blog entries that don't quite flow as a book. So, if I had to recommend a book to someone interested in my country, it definitely wouldn't be Radio Shangrila.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really loved this book. I was a bit concerned at the start that it was going to be a bit too "New Age" know, maybe seeing this small, Buddhist kingdom thru rose-colored glasses as a cure for the modern world...but Ms. Napoli quickly put my fears to rest. (I think it's important that the book was written by someone in their mid-forties, who has lived a lot and who has gained some perspective.) To be honest, I don't know that Bhutan brought out anything in the author that wasn't already there. She is very bright and introspective and it seems to me she already knew what was important in life. She is outgoing and has many friends, and is warm and giving and not materialistic. Mainly, she was burned-out by her job and disillusioned about the news business. I think she really needed a bigtime change of scenery, but with her personality we aren't talking about a regular vacation where you go shopping and relax by the pool. She needed something more esoteric and spiritual, and that's what Bhutan provided.

The thing I most enjoyed about this book was that it combined diary-like introspection with first-class reportage and humor. Ms. Napoli tells us about the awesome mountain vistas and wonderful, friendly people of Bhutan, but she also regales us with tales of greed (a Buddhist holy-man who is not averse to trying to squeeze a quick buck out of foreigners) and dislocation, as Bhutan lurches, ever so gingerly, into the 21st century. We have a country that is trying to change from a kingdom into a parliamentary democracy, but where the elections can't be held until the monks determine what days will be most auspicious; a country that wants tourism, but that imposes a substantial fee so that only "the right sort of person" will show up.
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