Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a mid-life crisis when a chance encounter led her to the adventure of a lifetime. Leaving behind her job in public radio and her life in Los Angeles, she moved to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan to volunteer at the country’s first youth radio station. Along the way, she found the world is a beautiful and complicated place, and learns to appreciate life in a way she never imagined.

When I received an email asking me to review this book, I was really excited by the title and the description; but to be perfectly honest, I had no idea where (or even what) Bhutan was! As soon as I started reading, however, I fell in love with Bhutan and with Radio Shangri-La’s heroine, Lisa Naploli. And I learned that Bhutan is, in fact, a real & wonderful place.

There were two elements of this book that fascinated me—Bhutan’s culture/Buddhism and Lisa’s journey.


Bhutan & Buddhism

Although I was clueless when I started the book, after reading it I had a wealth of knowledge about the happiest kingdom on earth. Lisa does an incredible job of taking her readers to this magical, faraway land. The book is a memoir/travel guide/history book all wrapped up in one. Right from the start, Lisa pulls us into her adventure and paints a stunning picture of Bhutan. The more I read, the more I found myself falling in love with this strange & wonderful country. Its focus on happiness really spoke to me:

Instead of measuring its economic progress by calculating the gross national product…His Majesty created a different scale. He proclaimed this philosophy, ironically, periodically, “Gross National Happiness.”

As evidenced in Lisa’s descriptions, Bhutan is a truly beautiful country:

Bhutan’s tourist industry sold the place as the last Shangri-la, and it became clear what I saw out the van that this was indeed a land that time and rampant development had forgotten. Rolling hills punctuated by spectacular mountains, vast expanses of meticulously terraced land and the clearest river rushing through, interrupted only occasionally by a cluster of unusual-looking houses … Every mountain and valley was so picturesque… some sort of fairy tale, with endless miles of untouched land and vistas of mountains and trees so lush it’s hard to imagine they’re real.

One of my favourite things about Bhutan is its obvious commitment to the environment. I find it truly extraordinary when a country is willing to put the health of the environment in front of the health of the economy. What a truly inspirational concept!

As part of Bhutan’s continuing environmental stewardship, the King announced that plastic bags would be banned—for the good of the plant and, ultimately, all people.

The last thing that really struck me about Bhutan’s culture is the intense focus on connectedness & relationships.

That Bhutan was guided by intense spirituality, by connection to home and community, held great allure. I was tired of sleep-deprived, stressed-out, too-busy people who shirked downtime in the service of making money so they could buy more stuff…

Most compelling to me were the underlying principles of the religion: Compassion for all beings, and the interconnectedness of everyone. The ideals of wisdom and knowledge. Self reliance. Acceptance and forgiveness. What you possessed and achieved wasn’t important.

Lisa’s Journey

Early on in the story, we learn that a horrific act of violence was committed against Lisa when she was a young woman. Reading the details of this event sent chills down my spine. Yet, it is a hugely important piece of what shaped her into the woman that she is. As she reflects on her journey and on the incredible string of events that led her to Bhutan she realizes:

And in some strange way it is because of that night, not despite of it, that I could be here.

Her ability to understand that all things—even the most difficult things that happen to us—are necessary, is truly inspirational. As we get deeper into Lisa’s journey we watch her transform from a woman lost, confused, and desperate into a woman beaming with light, gratitude, and positivity.

The Buddhists would say that everything you need is right here, within you. There’s no need to seek outside yourself for the answers. Nothing—no place, no person—can complete you or make you happy.

Everything is always in a state of flux. Nothing lasts forever—not triumph, love, no happy feeling, no state of sadness. Clinging to a person or place or moment in time was futile and unwise and led to suffering; so did wanting things to be different than they were.

Over the course of the story Lisa not only learns to accept her circumstances as a middle-aged, unmarried, childless woman; but she learns to love herself unconditionally. Toward the end of her first trip to Bhutan, Lisa purchases a Bhutanese ring. When the the shop owner explains that the ring is a wedding ring, Lisa smiles.

I am married to myself. Who else do I really need? It has taken me forty-three years to feel whole, to believe that nothing, really, is missing. Now is what matters, right now, I have all I need … Every time I catch a glimpse of my hand, I have a tangible reminder to celebrate. And to thank Bhutan for having cinched my feelings tight.

I’ve learned that the ingredients for happiness are simple: giving, loving, and contentment with where you are and who you are.

The generous publishers of Radio Shangri-la have offered to give away TWO FREE copies of this book to my readers! If you would like to receive a copy, just leave a comment below. Be sure to include your email address. Next week, I will choose two commenters at random to receive these free copies.

Note: All of the beautiful photographs in this post came from Lisa’s website.

26 thoughts on “Book Review & Giveaway: Radio Shangri-La”

  1. This sounds so lovely, Dena. My knowledge of Bhutan barely extends beyond knowing it’s a country- just your post has been enlightening! I would love to enter to win a copy.

    P.s. Writing you an email right now!

    1. @ Tessa – Thank you so much, Tessa. I am really glad that you enjoyed the post. I just got your email & I am SO excited!! I literally did a happy-dance at my desk. 😀 I’ll be writing back soon. XO

      @ Roberta – Thank you so much for the compliment & for stopping by! Best of luck. 🙂

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  5. Dena, i can’t wait to read this book. I am currently studying buddism and the Tao, so now you have me intrigued with this book.

    Dawn

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    1. @ Harvee – Thank you so much! I’m really glad that you decided to stop by. You are right — Lisa’s journey was truly inspiring. I really loved her photographs, too. I am going to head over to your blog now & take a peek. Hope you’ll stop by again soon.

  7. I think Buddhism is gaining in popularity. A few years ago, I never heard anything about it. Then, I heard Tiger Woods talking about it in one of his press conferences. Now, recently, I’ve heard you and Alison talking about it. The book is probably something Alison would enjoy. She reads books all the time, but I never do.

    1. @ Scott – I’ve been fascinated with Buddhism for many years. I identify with the Buddhist principles of karma & rebirth. In recent years, I’ve started to study Taoism as well and I find that I relate with it even more. The Three Jewels of the Tao are: compassion, moderation, and humility. I lead my life with these principles at the forefront of my mind. Both religions are inspirational. I’m happy to hear that they are gaining in popularity.

      Thanks so much for commenting and good luck to you & Alison in the random selection! 🙂

  8. Sounds like a cracking read Dena, I’m enjoying where evolution has come from! Started reading life of pi yesterday and this sounds like it would be right up my alley.

    P.S. Just catching up on your couchsurfing in Paris, sounds great!

  9. This book was a perfect choice for your site. What an adventure Lisa had not only in Bhutan, but, within her own life! She is a very brave woman with a zest for life, even in the face of adversity. She should serve as a great example for those who do not know their purpose in life. She also teaches us that you can remake your life at any age, if you are willing to take that first step.

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  12. @ Andrew – It is so great to see you here, my friend! How have you been? I miss you! When will you start blogging again? 🙂 So grateful for your comment. Stay in touch.

    @ George – You are so right about the book. It was so incredibly inspiring to share in Lisa’s story through her words. I love that she teaches us that we can remake our lives at any age. Such a message of hope! Thanks so much for stopping by.

    @nfmgirl – You are counted in! Thanks a million.

    @ Lisa – Thank you so much for the opportunity! I’m really glad you enjoyed the review.

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