Monday, February 28, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

Most people in the US would probably not have any clue where Bhutan was if you asked them. Heck, if you didn't mention that it was a country, they might not have any clue at all what you were talking about. So for the record, Bhutan is a small Asian country on the eastern end of the Himalayas, bordered by India and China. It is remote and difficult to get to, and that's just if you can afford to pay for the $200 a day tourist tax. It is probably best known for the fact that instead of Gross National Product, Bhutan measures Gross National Happiness. It is also occasionally known for the fact that for many years it did not have television (it does now). Despite these charming (from a Western perspective) eccentricities, it is still a largely unknown country to the average American. But for those of us with a taste for the off the beaten path, it is a place that holds immense appeal. And while I doubt I'll ever manage to get to Bhutan myself, reading about it is the next best thing.

Lisa Napoli was tired of her job at a public radio station in LA, burnt out aand frustrated by technology and its hold over our lives, when she met a man at a party who would change the course of her life forever. Through Sebastian, Napoli was offered an advisory position helping with Bhutan's new, emerging radio station Kuzoo FM. Despite her growing malaise with her job in the US, Napoli embraces this fantastic opportunity, takes a leave of absence from her job, and leaves for the Kingdom of Bhutan just as the country is poised on the edge of enormous changes. Transitioning from a monarchy to a democracy and from a media void to a media rich environment, Bhutan's age old traditions and feel were evolving.

Napoli captures a wonderful, sheltered land and what it feels like to be a visitor there but she doesn't shy away from the harder truths the Bhutanese are facing as well, including the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, the pull of American music and television, and the urbanization of the young. This is not just a travelogue about the sights and sounds of a foreign place. Napoli offers up slices of Bhutanese history, delves into the changing political scene, details the importance of Buddhism in daily life, and examines the changing customs that govern life in Thimpu.

But what makes this travelogue/memoir so full is that Napoli shares as much about herself on this journey as she does about the people and places in which she immerses herself. When she sets off on her first trip to Bhutan, she is clearly searching for something within herself. What this turns out to be is a peace with who she is and what she is doing with her life. She learns to be completely comfortable in her own skin and it shows in the confidence in her writing.

Her descriptions of Bhutan are vivid and enticing. The people she meets are warm and friendly. Her own search for self is not narcissistic and annoying but matter of fact and approachable. She is clearly changed by her trips to Bhutan and the way she's described it all makes the reader want to go and grow and learn and be welcomed with open arms too. If it's possible to fall in love with a place and a people through a book, then this is the book to make it happen. People who love travelogues will rejoice in this story. Readers who enjoy going along on a spiritual striving and seeing a life transformed will thrill to this read. It is rich and well-written and thoroughly enjoyable.

Now that you are completely intrigued by the book, read an excerpt to get you started.

For information about a charity raising money to send books and school essentials to children in rural Bhutan check out Books to Bhutan.

For more information about Lisa Napoli and the book be sure to visit her website and her blog. You can "like" the book on Facebook and follow Lisa on Twitter as well.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

And finally, the giveaway! The publisher is allowing me to give away two copies of the book to US/Canadian residents. But because you all love me and I love you back (and because Lisa came to my town and was totally delightful in person--she has a gift for listening to nervous babbling, never once rolling her eyes as I chatted and chatted and chatted), I also have a signed copy of the book I picked up that I am willing to send anywhere in the world. So that's three copies of the book to give away. Fill out the form below before March 21 for your chance to win.


  1. You did hook me! I hope I win.

  2. I'm reading this one now, and I'm glad it's not narcissistic. After the debacle (to me) that is Eat, Pray, Love, I'm quite wary of travelogue/memoirs. People do get changed by traveling, but I like to feel the change than read an "I" perspective.

  3. Hi Kristen, I've got this posted at Win a Book for you. No need to enter me.


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

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