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Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  2,029 ratings  ·  372 reviews
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.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Crown (first published 2010)
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Lisa Napoli
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I'm biased--I wrote it!
Feb 07, 2011 marked it as lemmed
I entered two giveaways for this book, one through FirstReads and one from the publisher's website. I won the FirstReads one and am hoping I don't end up with two. Isn't this title terrific?

After reading the 20 page introduction and the first 3 chapters, I decided that this just isn't my kind of book. I got suckered in by a terrific title and great cover. The blurb sounded pretty good too. However, I'm just not that into memoirs about middle-aged women (of which I am one) who feel a need to zip
Radio Shanghai-La was the perfect reading antidote to some of the the heavily philosophical novels I’d read if late. I ended up enjoying it more and more the farther I read and that was due to how well Napoli portrayed Bhutan as well as the personal growth she experienced as a result of new life choices.
She was very true to her subtitle: What I Discovered on my Journey to the Happiest Kingdom On Earth. I’m not a keen memoir reader as a rule - too much trauma, Sturm and Drang. I appreciated how
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I was wary of this one, but I'm not about to turn down a new book about Bhutan!

Travel memoirs are tricky. The author must strike a balance between blandly listing what they experience in the country and making the journey all! about! them! Radio Shangri-La is hit or miss in this regard. Unlike other travel memoirs I've read, there is a wealth of information about the Bhutan of the past four years. Napoli's pretty straightforward about how little she knew about Bhutan before arriving, and how mu
Read It Forward
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
I'm so excited to tell all my friends who loved Eat, Pray, Love about Radio Shangri-la! It's fabulous. So smart and insightful, and what an education I got reading it. Lisa has a journalist's precision and a novelist's way with character. She grabs her life during a moment of crisis and shakes it out like a rug - she's such an inspiration to all of us who have wondered what we would do if given the opportunity to let go of the familiar, travel to a far-off place, and change our life.
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
When I was first offered to review this book, I spent a while thinking about Bhutan, the country which is the focus of this travelogue memoir. The first sad thing I realized was that even in spite of having stayed for eight years in India, and having grown up on a steady diet of news regarding the southern Asian peninsula, Bhutan very rarely featured in any flash news from that region. Although I knew plenty about Bhutan, there was still a lot I didn't. That, as well as the real reason why news ...more
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, my-reviews
Although I did learn about Bhutan from this book, I thought that Lisa Napoli's memoir was not the best vehicle for doing so. It occurred to me that Napoli isn't very visual. One incident that stood out for me was when she was guessing the nationality of another visitor to Bhutan by his accent rather than his appearance. Another one was when she purchased a ring as a keepsake from Bhutan and didn't describe it at all. Her descriptions are general rather than specific. A travel writer should be mo ...more
Really 2.5 - 3 stars, but rounded down for the author's overly-perky narration, which grew irritating.

I found the story ultimately lacking, disappointing, underwhelming. We get a general description of Thimpu, though not much the country as a whole. Instead, the Bhutan-set chapters focus more on the personalities of the people she meets there, and impressions of the society; however, I didn't get an idea of what she actually did there as a volunteer. To be blunt, she came off as needy, and the B
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great book, I feel like I'd really like to visit a country where the measure of the country is how happy the people are instead of how much money or product they produce. Well written and plenty of interesting people. Written in 2011, I'd like to see the writer do a follow up as it seems the country was in transition when this book was written.
Karen Germain
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have a soft spot for travel memoirs, especially ones that involve quirky, fish-out-of-water scenarios. Lisa Napoli's Radio Shangri-La documents the author's many trips to the country of Bhutan, the self- proclaimed "Happiest Kingdom on Earth."

Bhutan is a country that is not accessible to the average tourist. It's difficult to obtain a visa and if you are allowed in, there is a heavy daily tax levied on visitors. Napoli managed to gain entry by way of her career in radio and arrived to help the
Bhutan captured my imagination back in my son's freshman year at Stanford because of a connection with one of his Stanford faculty and the Royal family. He almost spent part of that summer there, but time and finances worked against him heading to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth. Had he gone, he would have been in Bhutan the same time Lisa Napoli first went there, to help with the fledgling youth radio station Kuzoo FM.

There was a lot I liked about this book, but it had little to do with the autho
Amanda Patterson
Dear Lisa Napoli,
What DID you learn in Bhutan, the happiest place on earth? As a fellow traveller I hestitate to criticize your "Travel changed my life because it made me happy" epiphany, but such an epiphany does not a whole book merit. I enjoyed learning about Bhutan, a country I had only once heard of before when I went to a Gap Year meetup and a presenter who had been to nearly every country in the world insisted that Bhutan was the absolute best, and the absolute most expensive. He offered
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Story Description:

Crown Publishing Group | February 8, 2011 | e-Book | KOBO

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 begin
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
No matter how happy Bhutan is, I would not fare well there. It may be beautiful, but the fiery hot peppers they favor would leave me in tears and starving.
Lisa Napoli, author of “Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth,” worked for public radio in California and was dissatisfied with her life.
Through a chance meeting at a party, she winds up on the other side of the world, spending six weeks helping radio station Kuzoo FM operate, well, more like a professional
Rebekah O'Dell
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Imagine Eat, Pray, Love. Subtract the self-indulgent whining. Add work. Voila! An approximation of Lisa Napoli’s Radio Shangri-la.

I don’t mean that in a reductive way, though. This is a very thoughtful, interesting travel memoir about a successful journalist in a mid-life crisis. After a chance meeting at a party, Lisa agrees to travel to Bhutan, a tiny country touted as the “happiest kingdom on Earth.” A radio vet, her skills are needed to help professionalize a Bhutan’s first radio station. So
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Feb 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Armchair (and actual) travelers
Bhutan, with its Gross National Happiness emphasis, its gorgeous and isolated setting, wonderful people, and sudden ascent into the 21st century, has intrigued me, so I couldn't wait to read this memoir by a woman who volunteered at a fledgling radio station in the country. And I loved learning more about this unique country.

Unfortunately, the writing didn't quite live up to my expectations; it just didn't grab me as much as I had anticipated. To start, the author writes about Harris and Matt, B
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In spite of being in the news business herself, Lisa Napoli was tired of its noisy, incessant, over simplified sound bites, so when offered a six month volunteer position at a startup radio station in faraway Bhutan she put her job at NPR on hold and jumped at the chance. Bhutan, a tiny landlocked Buddhist kingdom surrounded by India and China and full of gorgeous alpine vistas, is famous for having a king who prefers promoting Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product. Mass communica ...more
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

After a chance meeting at a party, Lisa Napoli stumbles across the adventure of a lifetime. Radio Shangri-La covers two main narrative threads: a memoir of Napoli's sort of mid-life crisis and the history of Bhutan as well as its increasingly rapid democratization and commercialization. As a geography/culture junkie, I found the latter topic more compelling. Indeed, at times Napoli's personal developments seem a bit superfluous to
Sarah Booth
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with an adventurist spirit.
Story of a 43 year old Public Radio worker who ended up in Bhutan for 6 weeks helping with the country's first radio station for Bhutanese youth with music (pirated from the internet) and news of a country that was just opening up to outsiders and had literally kept the rest of the world out to maintain its "Gross National Happiness". But the new king, who would be starting elections for a democratic government instead of the singular power of the monarchy which had been run by this family for t ...more
Read this right after Beyond the Sky and the Earth, by Jamie Zeppa, who lived and taught in Bhutan for several years. The two books provided very different perspectives on Bhutan, not only because the action took place a few decades apart but because Napoli didn't immerse herself in Bhutanese culture to the extent Zeppa did. (For example, Napoli avoided the Bhutanese staple dish, finding it too spicy and foreign, instead favoring imported Western goods; Zeppa learned to cook and eat like a nativ ...more
I'm glad to have read this in the weeks leading up to my trip to Bhutan. It's given me a nice snapshot of the country; the people, the politics, the media and the rapid development that occurred between about 2007 and 2010 (the period of the book).
Elizabeth Good
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Very enjoyable read, and informative/ interesting to boot. I feel like all the big, “in” books these days, recommended here and by booksellers and New York Times and ad nauseam, are about one heavy subject after another. I’ve read many of them in a row. Sometimes I need a palate cleanser that is utterly mindless and then I go 180 degrees the other direction with something by Sophie Kinsella or Lauren Weisberger or similar, and I let myself do guilty pleasure to the max. But this type of book str ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This book was just okay. I think Bhutan is an interesting place and I enjoy learning new tidbits about the country, but I felt this was more a vehicle for a memoir or self-discovery than a book about Bhutan.
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: red
Subtitle: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

Some of you may recognize the name Lisa Napoli from public radio, for example on the show Marketplace. Some of you may also recognize the name Bhutan, a Himalayan nation even more remote than Nepal. If you recognize both, you are in a somewhat elite group.

This book is about Napoli's experience coming to learn about Bhutan by serving as an advisor to its first ever radio station, Kuzzoo FM. Her tale dances on the edge of being an "E
Jeannie Mancini
Jan 09, 2011 rated it liked it
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 evenin
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
"Yet if Akon and Christina Aguilera could dominate the airwaves—if cupcakes were being baked and Coca-Cola swigged and a person like me had been allowed in—anything was possible."

I almost didn't make it through the preface of this book. There are far too many white-woman-having-a-midlife-crisis-and-deciding-to-travel-around-the-globe memoirs out there, and this one certainly doesn't start off any differently from the rest of them.

One of the differences that sets this book apart from the rest of
Apr 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Any time you read a book that isn't based on the United States and our language you often have names of people and places that makes the eye like the tongue when reading out loud, stumble every time you see it. That is what slowed me down with this book. It wasn't totally enjoyable for me, I didn't zoom through the book in a day or two as I do when reading books I'm totally enamored with. This story was a true story of one womens fascination with a country that she went to visit often after her ...more
Sarah Ronk
Feb 09, 2020 rated it liked it
IRL book club book. Loved the audio version. Had no knowledge of Bhutan before this. Good memoir!
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Why I read it:
I really enjoy reading about people's experiences living countries that I know next to nothing about. I remember watching The Today's Show feature about Bhutan, which sparked my curiosity about the country and their way of life. When the chance to read this one came along I thought it sounded like a great read.

What's it about:

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 prese
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Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth
Crown, February 2011
(Paperback: Broadway Books, April, 2012)

Lisa Napoli is a journalist who has worked in all media. She began her career at CNN in Atlanta in the early eighties, worked in local TV news in North Carolina, covered the Clinton campaign and Waco standoff as a field producer for an early iteration of the

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