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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Really Enjoyed This Book
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...
Published on January 4, 2011 by Alexander Lucard

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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A review from a Bhutanese
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...
Published on July 27, 2011 by Chrysanthemum


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Really Enjoyed This Book, January 4, 2011
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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. This is poor writing on Napoli's part, as the author either needs to stay to keep the same level of candidness consistent throughout the entire story being told.

One other note - at the end of the book, Napoli gives a list of books and websites to learn more about Bhutan. I went to several of them but was disappointed to see that the website for what this book revolves around (Kuzoo FM) hasn't been updated in over two years. I'm surprised neither Napoli nor the editor/publisher of the book caught that and that nothing was made of this.

Overall, in spite of a few minor writing/researching errors, I really enjoyed this book and I know I'll be picking it up again as the years go by. As I've said, it inspired me to take a trip to Bhutan myself before its culture and charm are completely destroyed by Westernization/modernization, and that's how I know a book has really caught me.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A review from a Bhutanese, July 27, 2011
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Combination of Reportage And Introspection, January 4, 2011
By 
Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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I really loved this book. I was a bit concerned at the start that it was going to be a bit too "New Age"...you 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. (They want rich tourists, not the great-unwashed on a spiritual odyssey.) On a more personal level, we learn how the changes affect the people Ms. Napoli has become close to. In a country where television and the Internet are now becoming pervasive, and the Western lifestyle of conspicuous consumption is on full-display, how do you maintain traditional values? Are you able to?

As an extra "bonus", early-on in the book the author describes why the University of Texas at El Paso has a campus adorned with buildings in the Bhutanese architectural style. It is a quirky, fascinating little tale.

Highly recommended.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blurry snapshots of a small place, February 11, 2011
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Talk to anyone who's been to Bhutan and you'll hear about what a wonderful place it is. Interesting culture, unspoiled landscapes, nice people and, inevitably its Gross National Happiness policy. Lisa Napoli's chatty account of her experiences in the small country is meant to be along the same lines, but somehow the impact on the reader (okay, this reader), doesn't add up to the "WOW!" that is intended.

"Radio Shangri-La" reads like a pieced-together blog of the author's various highly-personal experiences with Bhutan and Bhutanese. Some interesting, entertaining and charming; others are extraneous, puzzling or just plain uninteresting. There is not much of a chronology to the author's adventures and observations about the subjects and that made her story hard to follow at times. A lot of her mid-life musings--discontent with personal and professional situations--are liberally dropped into the middle of what the reader expects to be a travel account. While I enjoyed parts of the book, I can't say that I'm much better informed about the country or culture than I was before reading it. I would have liked more information about landscape, culture, religion, relations with neighboring countries, etc. Overall, this was a disappointing read. Maybe my expectations were too high.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for armchair travelers!, February 28, 2011
By 
skrishna (http://www.skrishnasbooks.com) - See all my reviews
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When I first heard about Radio Shangri-La, I knew I wanted to read it. Though I have heard of Bhutan, I know almost nothing about it. This book gave me the opportunity to learn something about a new place, while simultaneously enjoying a personal story. Additionally, the premise reminded me of The Woman Who Fell From The Sky by Jennifer Steil, a book I really loved about a woman moving to Yemen to help run a newspaper. I knew I was in for a treat with Radio Shangri-La, and I was right.

I absolutely loved Napoli's observations about Bhutan. From the way of life, to the landscape, to the interesting people she meets, I drank up every detail Napoli had to offer about Bhutan. The country has a fascinating history, and it's so interesting that life there has remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years. Now, though, the encroachment of modern technology such as television and radio have begun to change the culture. While the young people living in Bhutan want to be in touch with the rest of the world, they are losing their connection with their culture.

Napoli presents a very interesting quandary in Radio Shangri-La. On one hand, people are attracted to Bhutan because life there is so simple, yet the people are so happy. In fact, the country makes it a point to measure the Gross National Happiness (instead of GDP or GNP, like most other countries). At the same time, though, the influx of foreign visitors is changing the country. As a result, the people who crave the peace and happiness of Bhutan are changing it simply through their presence. There are a lot of discussions about this subject in the book, the balance between the need for modernization and the protection of culture, and it made the book simply fascinating.

While Napoli did discuss her experiences trying to run the radio station in Bhutan, the focus isn't on her job. Instead, it's on her personal observations and experiences. While I did enjoy those aspects, I would have loved more information about the cultural difficulties she found in educating the Bhutanese about how to run their radio station. Napoli tends to skim over this, though it would have made the book richer had more of this information been included.

Radio Shangri-La is a really interesting read. I loved the discussion about modernization in Bhutan - Napoli loved how preserved the culture was, yet she was helping to change that with the radio station. It really will give the reader a lot to think about, and since this is an easy read, it makes it perfect for book clubs. I thoroughly enjoyed my armchair travels through Bhutan in this book, and am now eager to learn more about the happiest place on earth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting story, but doesn't captivate or charm the reader (3.5 stars), May 12, 2011
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To be honest, I'm really unsure about how I feel about this book. It was fairly well-written (despite a few issues with some characters changing names mid-story), very interesting to read, and made me want to know more about Bhutan.

That being said, I've come away from "Radio Shangri-La" knowing a significant amount about Bhutan, but not knowing anything about the author (besides the fact she's 40-something, single, drives a two-seater car, wears a lot of black clothes, and suffered a trauma in Atlanta). I adore travelogues, and I like stories about quirky people and situations (and the staff at Kuzoo FM, the radio station Lisa Napoli is brought to Bhutan to assist with, qualifies as a quirky bunch), but there was something missing here.

It almost seemed as if "Radio Shangri-La" was meant to be a book of short stories about Napoli's Bhutan experience, except it's almost as if she left out several key chapters. And although she does share some very personal and serious experiences with the reader, it's almost as if she's holding back from letting any of us get to know too much about her. My opinion may change when I grow some distance from the book (I just finished it a few days ago), but right now I'm a little disappointed. I think if the book's several holes and gaps had been filled in, it would have been a REALLY great read.

If you are looking for a fun and enjoyable introduction to Bhutan and one woman's travels there, this is a good book. If you want the story of a life-changing personal odyssey that took place in a foreign destination, there are a lot of other books on the market that you'll enjoy a lot more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bhutan, April 24, 2011
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I was looking forward to reading about Bhutan and also I have an interest in personal emotional and spiritual journeys. This book proved to be a disappointment. I learned very little about Bhutan other than most people loved the king, the food is very hot and not too good; and there are a lot of stray dogs running around in the capitol. The book read like a disconnected diary much of the time. Interesting subjects which were introduced in the book from her trips or observations just disappeared rather than being developed. At best she described the elections in Bhutan very well, but they were like the sound bites of a news writer which is what she was in L.A. Even information about her-mid life crisis was never developed beyond an elementary level. Bhutan is an interesting place undergoing big changes and has very beautiful scenery- I found few descriptions of these in any depth in this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Information + Reflection = Interesting Tale, January 5, 2011
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As individuals and nations, we come to a point in our life where standing in place is not an option and we are required to make a decision as to what direction we will go. "Radio Shangri-la" tells the parallel stories of Lisa Napoli and the people of Bhutan as they work to sort through their past, evaluate what is essential and integrate it all into their vision of the future. I found the author's personal story less compelling than Bhutan's, possibly because, as with all of us, she could see the motives, strengths and weaknesses of others more clearly than her own. The book is rich in information about this small, culturally rich kingdom and the sights, smells, textures, history and people are brought to life in Napoli's writing. It is also rich in opportunities for introspection as it looks squarely at the beauty, scandal, simplicity and complexity that creates life. "What does it mean to `want more'? Can happiness be taught or measured? What is the difference between familiarity and true understanding? When does `progress' become detrimental? Is chosen simplicity the same thing as absence? How do we reconcile image with reality?", are some of the many questions that the book challenges the reader to explore . The Bhutanese are not the only people who will increasingly need to juggle the competing demands of environmental protection, democracy, the responsibilities and challenges of living in a global economy, traditional religious, cultural and family values, the siren call of technology and widespread belief that human value and satisfaction are most reliably measured in terms of consumption.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, March 19, 2011
We all have one place we'd love to visit "someday." Bhutan is mine. I read everything I can get my hands on about that obscure country. So when "Radio Shangri-La" came out, I grabbed a copy. Lisa Napoli, in a mid-life rut, got a fantastic opportunity dropped on her lap: consult with Bhutan's very first radio station, a fledgling start-up run by hip young people.

Napoli lacks the ability to make her stories come alive. I was more than half-way through the book before she provided a very brief day-in-the-life of her consulting job. Her descriptions were so vague, I felt like she was telling someone else's story. While in Bhutan, she apparently spent more time with ex-pats than natives, so we never got to know the people around her. She didn't like the food, and she glossed over relationships. While showing her photos to a woman on the plane ride home, she remarks "Here's Pema getting her hair curled and Pink getting her eyebrows threaded at a beauty `saloon' before a night on the town." This would have been more effective if she'd actually described that scene while she was there, if she was there. But the snapshot is the one and only mention.

If you're looking for a book on Bhutan that makes you feel like you're really there, read Jamie Zeppa's "Beyond the Sky and the Earth." Bhutan has changed tremendously since Zeppa's book was published eleven years ago, but her writing is far superior to Napoli's.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars for This New Travel Writer, January 9, 2011
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Although I am an avid reader of travel narrative books, Radio Shangri-La was my first armchair adventure story into the country of Bhutan.

While going through a personal midlife crisis, Lisa Napoli realizes she needs some changes in her life. Her personal relationships, her work at an L.A. radio station, and her previous view of the American dream dipped in a materialist world, were ingredients causing her life to fold and unhappiness to descend upon her life devoid of joy and meaning. One evening at a party she is introduced to an international tour guide named Sebastian who is not only handsome but intriguing, living a life most people would love to experience. Days later she is invited by him to avail upon an opportunity to assist a small radio station in Bhutan. Desperate to break the monotony of her life and to find new meaning, Lisa accepts without batting an eye.

Radio Shangri-la is Lisa's story of her many trips to beautiful Bhutan, a small country tucked hidden in amongst the high peaks of the Himalayas. A land much like that of Tibet. Landing in the "Happiest Kingdom on Earth", Lisa is soon accepted by the local Bhutanese and ingratiates herself by assisting with a new radio station called Kuzoo FM. Teaching the staff ethics of media do's and don'ts, helping the members as they adopt techniques of gathering information, reporting accurate news, sticking to facts, and creating a station that will have all people of Bhutan listening 24/7 as faithfully as listening to their beliefs in Buddha, proves rewarding as Lisa soon sees positive results as Kuzoo improves.

The book entails many vignettes of Lisa's work at the station, her friendships with the locals, and her new views on what is important in life, taken from a world without materialistic problems. Readers will become entranced in the many aspects of the Bhutanese culture such as their food, clothing, religious beliefs, folklore, changing politics, and the effects of media such as the internet and television, two things previously not allowed in Bhutan until very recently. Lisa slowly falls in love with her surroundings and is captivated by Bhutan and it's people. Over the course of a few years she makes many visits to Bhutan to both garner knowledge of their culture and to teach them about ours. I very much enjoyed her many meanderings into comparing American life with theirs and I think this book will allow other readers to stop and contemplate how our media-filled world has created many social and cultural dilemmas for our own country.

As travel narrative books go, Radio Shangri-la is an enjoyable read filled with facts and fun antidotes the author chose to share with us. On the whole, her story is an engaging one and I feel most readers will find it an interesting tale.

My only complaint with the book is the many, many typos and various errors. I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reading copy paperback and can only hope that these errors get cleaned up for the official copy. There were more than just a few, and not only in the realm of spelling, grammar or words running together without spaces. Those I can tolerate if they get fixed before the release date. What I found hard to accept was the fact that within the book, three times the author would be referring to one character by one name, and then erroneously slip and call that character by another name as if forgetting who she was writing about. I saw it three times and found that pretty poor. Again, hopefully these mistakes get remedied before publishing.

Taking out my comment about errors, I give 3.5 stars to this intriguing adventure into a country we don't get exposed to too often within the world of literature or non-fiction titles. I liked it, enjoyed it, learned a few things, I just can't say it was fabulous.
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Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth
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