Book Review: Radio Shangri-La – Lisa Napoli

Title: Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth
Author: Lisa Napoli
ISBN: 9780307453020
Pages: 304
Release Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In this memoir, Lisa Napoli recounts her move to Bhutan, a tiny country near India, in order to help run a brand new radio station. 

Review:

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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Comments

  1. I am so excited about this book, and should be reading it soon. Bhutan is a place that I know so little about, and that I am so eager to learn about. I am glad that you had such a positive reaction to the book. Great review!

  2. I am so excited about this book, and should be reading it soon. Bhutan is a place that I know so little about, and that I am so eager to learn about. I am glad that you had such a positive reaction to the book. Great review!

  3. I am about 100 pages into this book and enjoying it so far, thank you for the great review

  4. I am about 100 pages into this book and enjoying it so far, thank you for the great review

  5. I’m glad you think this will make a great book club pick since my real life book club will be reading it soon.

  6. I’m glad you think this will make a great book club pick since my real life book club will be reading it soon.

  7. This sounds really interesting. I am going to go see if I can get a copy!

  8. This sounds really interesting. I am going to go see if I can get a copy!

  9. Interesting review 🙂 Looks like this book offers something new to learn about

  10. Interesting review 🙂 Looks like this book offers something new to learn about

  11. This book is on the top of my TBR, as I’m thinking of using it for a class. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  12. This book is on the top of my TBR, as I’m thinking of using it for a class. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  13. I’m so intrigued by this book! I know nothing about Bhutan and am really looking forward to reading this soon.

  14. I’m so intrigued by this book! I know nothing about Bhutan and am really looking forward to reading this soon.

  15. Review excited me a lot, sad its not available in India right now

  16. Review excited me a lot, sad its not available in India right now

  17. Interesting to read where you thought the strengths and weaknesses were in this book.

    I haven’t yet read it, but, as you say, I’ll learn a lot from the armchair travels through Bhutan.

    Nice to have a non-fiction book that lends itself to discussion (I think many groups tend to go with fiction, unless there’s a built-in reading guide … but maybe I’m off with that generalization!)

  18. Interesting to read where you thought the strengths and weaknesses were in this book.

    I haven’t yet read it, but, as you say, I’ll learn a lot from the armchair travels through Bhutan.

    Nice to have a non-fiction book that lends itself to discussion (I think many groups tend to go with fiction, unless there’s a built-in reading guide … but maybe I’m off with that generalization!)

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