Book Review: Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

February 21, 2011

“Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth” by Lisa Napoli is a memoir starting in 2007. The author volunteered to go to Bhutan and help launch their first radio station.

  • 304 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : Crown
  • Language ‏ : English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 0307453022

The publisher has made available two (2) copies of “Radio Shangri-La” to be given out- enter at the end of the post.

Book Review: Radio Shangri-La by Lisa NapoliMy rating for Radio Shangri-La4
Buy Radio Shangri-La from*
More Books by Lisa Napoli*


When I first started to read this book I thought “not again”. A woman, in mid-life crisis, flies thousands of miles and changes her life forever. I hated “Eat, Pray, Love” (book review) and didn’t want to go through pages and pages of whining again.

What I discovered, however, was the fascinating chronicle of a country moving in a breakneck speed towards change (and yes, a woman’s search for happiness – but Ms. Napoli doesn’t whine).

The book made me want to go visit Bhutan, although I doubt my beloved wife and Mr. Wallet will agree to the $200 tourist fee, charged per person, per day. Luckily for Ms. Napoli she’s given a free pass as a volunteer who has been invited to advise on a youth oriented radio station called Kuzoo FM, Bhutan’s first radio station.

Lisa Napoli describes Bhutan as a beautiful, quirky and complex country. The country measures its success by Gross National Happiness, since “[e]conomic progress at any cost, went the thinking, was not progress at all”. Framed by the Himalayas, Bhutan markets itself as “The Happiest Kingdom on Earth”, with no traffic lights, new roads construction, penises painted on buildings for good luck and good nature people.
I almost bought a plane ticket.
But… you know… $200 per person, per day…

At the time the author has visited Bhutan was going through a massive transformation, TV and Internet has been allowed since 1999 and a clash of cultures is bound to arise. In addition, the King has decided to hand over the country to a democratic government. Exciting and important indeed even though about a year after the elections the democratic government suspended live TV feed from their hearings (it confuses people) and gave themselves a raise and a car for their efforts.
Welcome to democracy Bhutan.

Where I find the story weak is when Ms. Napoli starts to examine an interesting personal topic and then simply drops it. I will leave the relationship details alone (even though she does that at least twice) but she never fully examines the contradiction of helping a Bhutan establish a broadcast industry despite her aversion of the broadcast industry at home.

While Napoli’s take on Bhutan is strictly of an outside observer, I still found the window she opened to the country fascinating. The book is a wonderful look not only at a far away place but also at how certain places and people have the innate ability to change our lives forever.


Long time journalist Lisa Napoli is in her early 40’s, without a family and unhappy at her job. She readily agrees to a stay for six weeks in Bhutan to help a fledgling radio station called Kuzoo.

The station is staffed by a young and inexperienced group which are as much a part of the story as Ms. Napoli. We meet Ngwang who wants to come to America and becomes family to Napoli; Pema, the pop loving radio jockey and Pink, whose marriage is falling apart while she’s moonlighting as a DJ at night clubs.

Lisa Napoli’s relationship with her protégés and her experiences in a remote corner of the world are fascinating and enlightening.

Buy Radio Shangri-La from*
More Books by Lisa Napoli*


  • Contest is for one (1) new copy of “Radio Shangri-La”.
  • There will be TWO (2) WINNERS
  • Must be a US / Canada mailing Address
  • Ends Thursday February 28, 2011
  • Winners will be chosen using
  • Winners will have 24 hours after my initial contact to write back their mailing address, otherwise alternate winners will be picked


  • aikychien@
  • undermyappletree@

TLC Book Tour for “Radio Shangri-La”:
Monday, February 14th: Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Wednesday, February 16th: A Musing Reviews
Thursday, February 17th: Nomad Reader
Monday, February 21st: Man of La Book
Wednesday, February 23rd: Evolution You
Thursday, February 24th: Book Bird Dog
Monday, February 28th: BookNAround
Wednesday, March 2nd: The Zen Leaf
Thursday, March 3rd: eclectic/eccentric
Monday, March 7th: Bonjour, Cass!
Tuesday, March 8th: Silver and Grace
Wednesday, March 9th: Joyfully Retired
Thursday, March 10th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Monday, March 14th: BookHounds
Wednesday, March 16th: Scraps of Life
Thursday, March 17th: Rundpinne
Monday, March 21st: Chick with Books
Tuesday, March 22nd: Luxury Reading

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Wrap Up

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


  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy...February 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Ooooooo I’m sold too! This review made me discuss it with Mr. Whimsy. Now I reallllllllllllllly want to go. Sounds amazing, lush, and exotic. Great review. I am SO in on this contest.

    BTW, I’m loving your blog.

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy...February 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    This would SO make up for the time I spent on EPL!

  • Lisa MunleyFebruary 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    My first thought was also “Eat, Pray, Love, UGH” but was pleasantly surprised to find a completely different kind of book and author. Great review, thanks so much for being on the tour!

  • bookspersonallyFebruary 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Sounds interesting – one of those places you might never get to, but how lovely to read about. (also a fellow EPL disliker)

  • Markus LaineAugust 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I had the good fortune to visit Bhutan in 98 and again in 2010 as a tour guide (free of charge ;-)). Thanks for this review, I have been looking for books on Bhutan and there is not that much literature on it. One historical book I have read, that gives a shortish account on the country in the late 18th century, is Kate Teltscher’s “The High Road to China”, you may like it.


    • zoharAugust 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Lucky you Markus. Bhutan sounds like a beautiful place. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Hattie NormanDecember 16, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Thank you for the great book review. I had seen the title on different blogs, but the title seemed boring. I would love to learn about Bhutan in this novel. Thanks for entering me in the contest.

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