When Napoli met the handsome Sebastian at a cookbook party in New York City, she was intrigued by this man who traveled to Bhutan regularly. And when the accomplished L.A.-based journalist (MSNBC, CNN, public radio's Marketplace) researched the country about which he spoke so enthusiastically, she became entranced with Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom that sits between India and China. This country--dubbed "the happiest on earth" because of its focus on environmental and social progress--is hard to get to, with its remote location and governmental deterrents to tourism, like a per-person, per-day tourist tax. But a friend of Sebastian's needs help with startup radio station Kuzoo FM, so Napoli leaves L.A. and goes to Bhutan for six weeks. She writes, "After more than two decades of reducing even the most complex issues to 1,000 words or less, I was tired of observing life from a distance." While the author turns an eye on her own motivations (nothing further developed with Sebastian), she refrains from tortured navel-gazing and instead shares and reflects on Bhutan's people, history, and customs (from painting phalluses on houses to repel evil spirits to Buddhism's role in daily life). Napoli's adventures at home and abroad, in nature and career and spirit, will delight readers. (Feb.)
“ [an] affectionate portrait of life in a slower-paced, high altitude society…absorbing, often touching memoir”--The New York Times Book Review
“[An] affectionate portrait of life in a slower-paced, high altitude society…[an] absorbing, often touching memoir.” --The New York Times
"From the moment she walks off the plane, Ms. Napoli knows she's a universe away... [She] is infatuated with Bhutan, and...has an eye for a good story."--Wall Street Journal
“Joyful….You’ll close the book wishing you could head to Bhutan on the next plane.”--Toronto Star
"A rare gift....Radio Shangri-La is much more than just a story of a midlife crisis. It’s the chronicle of a country barreling toward change, and a woman’s search for what happiness really means at any age."--Christian Science Monitor
"Napoli's wry voice and honest insights create a thoughtful, engaging narrative...[she] avoids romanticizing Bhutan while capturing the country's unique charm."--The Globe and Mail
"Comparisons to the wildly popular Eat Pray Love,’ Elizabeth Gilbert’s international travel romp through meals, meditation, and men, are easy to see...In a refreshing twist on the female travel memoir, Napoli stands brilliantly apart from [Elizabeth] Gilbert in that, in the end, she chooses herself and not another man."--Boston.com
"Lovely and fascinating."--Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Radio Shangri-La reminded me of Deborah Rodriguez’s 2007 bestselling Kabul Beauty School. Only better, if for no other reason than the writing here is just so sharp and terrific…Journalist Napoli writes stylishly about physical and spiritual renewal. Part travel memoir, part crossroads handbook, Radio Shangri-La is unforgettable.—JanuaryMagazine.com
"Fascinating."--Spirituality & Practice
“Radio Shangri-La has shades of Pico Iyer and Bruce Chatwin and a similar genius for parachuting the reader into a strange land and culture. Bhutan has long fascinated me and Radio Shangri-La is the perfect vehicle to get there."– Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
"Radio Shangri-La is a beautiful, touching and deeply compelling memoir by a well-known public radio reporter who arrived in the tranquil kingdom of Bhutan to help establish the nation's first radio station and, as important, to further her own mid-life assessment of a life that felt full of missteps. The book is delightful reading--honest, moving and quietly spiritual as it offers both an intimate portrait of a country only halfway to modernity and a soul in quest of meaning."--Scott Turow, author of Innocent
"Radio Shangri-La grabs you by the heart and takes you on a winding dual journey -- into the self and into a fairy tale kingdom known for measuring happiness as its gross national product. Charming, illuminating, and often ironic, this memoir is a continuous discovery of myths and realities in finding deeper personal meaning."--Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and Saving Fish from Drowning
"Bummed out in midlife, [Lisa] Napoli went to Bhutan to volunteer at the country's first youth-oriented radio station...She reveals the truths--and, yes, happiness--she found there. Perfect for everyone who loves finding-yourself-through-travel memoirs."-- Library Journal
"Enjoyable memoir about ex-journalist Napoli’s search for wholeness and spiritual renewal. A refreshingly uplifting book."--Kirkus Reviews
From the Hardcover edition.
Nestled between India and China, Bhutan is known as the last Buddhist kingdom and Land of the Thunder Dragon. The story opens with fortysomething journalist Napoli's dogged pursuit of happiness by documenting "three good things" each day. By chance, the Los Angeles-based author is persuaded to take a midlife journey to Bhutan. Taking place in 2007, this six-week sojourn's purpose is to help improve Kuzoo FM, the nation's fledgling radio station. Bhutan's monarch promotes "Gross National Happiness," restricts tourism, and imagines the radio station as a way to prepare Bhutanese young people for impending parliamentary elections. Over the course of the next two years, Napoli returns to Bhutan a few more times. Predictably, the author learns a great deal about herself and her life's choices and revels in the growth experienced by the young radio jockeys. VERDICT Napoli's fluid, elegant, and vivid prose draws readers into this special geographical place and illustrates the value of soul searching. This compelling story will inspire readers interested in other cultures and the spiritual side of world travel.—Elizabeth Connor, The Citadel, Military Coll. of South Carolina Lib., Charleston
Enjoyable memoir about ex-journalist Napoli's search for wholeness and spiritual renewal.
The author provides a readable account of her life-changing decision to leave the comforts of her cosmopolitan Los Angeles life and serve as a volunteer at Kuzoo FM 90, a radio station for young people in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Disillusioned with her love life and fed up with her job as a public-radio commentator, Napoli took a chance on a mysterious stranger's offer of unpaid work in a country where "[b]eing, not having" and "[h]appiness above wealth" were the prevailing national philosophies. For six weeks, the author immersed herself in an ancient but vibrant culture just emerging from centuries of self-imposed isolation. During her time there, she experienced endless fascination, but also sadness, caused by the Bhutanese obsession with television and all things Western. At the same time, Napoli discovered the beginnings of a joy and personal healing that had eluded her at home. After her first visit, she returned to Bhutan two more times. Knowing she couldn't stay for long, she decided to "bring a bit of Bhutan to me" and sponsored a young female radio jockey, Ngawang Pem, to come to Los Angeles. In search of a way to stay in the United States and explore her version of the American dream, Ngawang eventually disappeared to New York before going back to Bhutan, marrying and inviting the author to become godmother to her unborn son. Napoli ably avoids the first-person trap of self-absorption through memorable depictions of the people and places in her narrative. She also skirts clichés about the world-weary Westerner who finds renewal in a short-term encounter with the exotic through the open-ended story of intercultural exchange. Although she ended the journey unmarried, childless and uncertain of her future, the author gained the hard-won conviction "that what I gave was more important than what I got."
The author's authentic voice and light, pleasant cultural insights make for a refreshingly uplifting book.