Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Salon: In Which I Travel to Bhutan and the North Pole, with a Stop at a Convenience Store in Brooklyn

 Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

What's going on when a country bravely tosses the idea of measuring a society's worth in GNP and seizes upon attempting to measure it instead with Gross National Happiness? I've always been curious about Bhutan. Sadly, Napoli reveals in this book that the food in Bhutan is abysmal, but in every other way Napoli finds a small Eden, epitomized by the fact that Bhutan is a country where the king's phone number is actually published in the local phone book.

(Side note:  Just when I was feeling all gooey and lovey-dovey about Bhutan, I went to a family get-together last week and my nephew started telling me the sad story of a new fellow at his job who is a refugee from Bhutan, fleeing Bhutan because of persecution there for his religious beliefs. So you might wait a bit before you start packing....) 

The Magnetic North by Sara Wheeler

Wheeler takes her readers places no one has been, places no one really wants to go except via books. This time, she guides us through the frozen north, the lands and waters north of the Arctic Circle. She's an ideal guide, one who seeks out all the coolest (in both senses of the word) spots and who finds all the best of the Arctic stories, and relates her tales with a delightfully literate vocabulary.


My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe

There are books I read that make me wish I were as good at reviewing books as I am at reading them. This book is one of these. 

Howe is the WASP-iest of WASPs, with Pilgrim ancestors who came over on the first boats, and an A+ education. He's an editor at the Paris Review which, to the five of us who continue to salute the written word, is up there with the Supreme Ruler of the Western World. He's married to a woman who is a new immigrant, with that killer drive which leaves the rest of us watching her zip by as we watch by the edge of the highway, dazzled and dazed.

The story is really the story of America today told with both humor and sadness, an America sitting proudly on its crumbling throne, an America where new immigrants vigorously race around to throw together businesses that fail nevertheless, where intelligence doesn't work, where energy doesn't work, where nothing works, where everyone is left sad and bewildered. All in a humorous way.

What are you reading today? 

And don't forget!
The July Giveaway here at Readerbuzz is...

And it's international!

What is the Sunday Salon?
Imagine some university library's vast reading room.
It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in.
They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,
and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go.
Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and
compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....

That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual.
Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon
get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read.
And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs.
Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon,
an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities
 and fall into a good book. 
Click here to join the Salon.


  1. Oh, you have traveled to some interesting places in your reading. That's my favorite thing about they take us to places we only dream of going.



  2. I really liked Napoli's Radio Shangri-La and you're right, I thought about packing my bags and heading to Bhutan. I think the modern world is sneaking its way in unfortunately.

  3. I'm so glad that you've been able to do some escapist reading recently. I've been traveling back in time to the windy desolate Devonshire moors of the early 20th century. (but I haven't really been doing much reading, I've spent too much time watching a bike race in France)

  4. I've actually read zero this week, which is probably a record for me. I finished all three of these wonderful books week before last and wrote up this post for last Sunday, but I never got around to posting it. I hope to get back to the reading world (especially I hope to join up with Sherlock Holmes and Watson) this week.

  5. Snapping fingers...dang it and I was planning on rushing right over to Bhutan too, based on your first recommendation. ;) Okay, not really...I think I'll just chill here in the states, with emphasis on the "chill" as it's getting hot (I'm sure I don't have to tell you since you're in Texas, right?) this week and I'll be using our a/c quite rigorously. Reading: I will get to The Invention of Hugo Cabret this week...maybe even today. We'll see. I just want to make sure I give it the attention it deserves...even if it looks like a picture book, I have a feeling it's much more than that.

  6. I think your review of My Korean Deli is great and has actually persuaded me to read the book myself :)

    Not surprisingly, my weekly reading has taken me to Paris and I have enjoyed every single minute.

  7. I have wanted to read Radio Shangri-La for a while, and now I'm interested in My Korean Deli too :)

  8. What a nice mix of books here!

  9. Those books sound so wonderful! I'm going to definitely check them out and see when I can get them to the top of my TBR pile! Radio Shagri-La seems really interesting! Here's my post.

  10. I think Bhutan is a fascinating place, but I've never considered it heaven on earth. Isn't it the setting for Lost Horizon?

  11. I think you are right; I think Bhutan is the setting for Lost Horizon. And if it isn't, it should be.

  12. A friend of mine went to Bhutan and loved it there, for the friendliness and its simplicity. It looks beautiful too. Maybe one day... Who knows. In the meantime, hurrah for armchair travel!

  13. Radio Shangri La has been on my radar since I read Married to Bhutan, which I really enjoyed.
    I've also heard of My Korean Deli; I'll have to read it now!

  14. Oooh--My Korean Deli looks fabulous!

  15. I read the first and third, and really liked both. My Korean Deli also told me alot about George Plimpton that I never knew.


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