1. A Splendid Isolation: Lessons on Happiness from the Kingdom of Bhutan
Bhutan is a country that believes in Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is a part of the national policy of Bhutan-to look after the well being and happiness of its people. This is a fascinating concept to the rest of the world; a world that is more than often over powered by greed, vanity and materialism. Acclaimed journalist Madeline Drexler, who also has a penchant for travel writing, made a trip to Bhutan to understand the concept of GNH better and to see if it really works in the modern, rational world. In a deeply religious country where the idea of Buddhist renunciation and simplicity takes deep root against a changing, challenging world filled with materialism, what kind of transformation the society will accept is what the book explores. The book imitates a report as she learns about the perspectives of real people in Bhutan. From bureaucrats to artists and writers, scholars and religious people, the author makes a journey into the heart of Bhutan and offers us their personal insights on what happiness in modern world in all about and how Bhutan is dedicated to harness that concept, as a nation.
2. Married to Bhutan
Linda Leaming’s Bhutan is a place of “enlightenment”. This book is a memoir about her life in Bhutan, beginning from the time when she married a Bhutanese person. The book begins with Linda’s exact idea of Bhutan and how the country’s isolation is its greatest blessing. Beginning with love and marriage and the different stages in her life in Bhutan, Leaming portrays a surreal picture of Bhutan, from its bewildering traditions, to its people and the idea of happiness in a society. Leaming slightly juxtaposes life in Bhutan to the west; the difference in the values, materials, and the pace of life. Although the average Bhutanese life maybe slow but its quest for happiness and spiritual enlightenment is more profound. Life is physically difficult, but people seem happier than the privileged. Leaming is one among the few Americans to have lived in Bhutan and the one who understands the country and the people of Bhutan from the standpoint of an insider as well as an outsider. Leaming stresses on the small things in life that are valuable and which narrate the idea of happiness in a country that has little to do with avarice. This book is also about the author’s experiences as she learns the language, customs, and finds the incredible spiritual experience that make up Bhutan’s extraordinary life, in ordinary situations.
3. Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth
Bhutan is practically unruffled by modern influences and remains in seclusion from industrialization and it has managed to retain its spiritual and natural equilibrium. This is because Bhutan has always been a spiritual place and devoted to environmental conservation and the notion of happiness and well being. Lisa Napoli draws Bhutan from the eyes of an outsider, as a place that offers the opposite of her busy life in America, a stark contrast between the modern and the traditional. The book begins with Lisa in the midst of a crisis, frustrated with her life, a disenchanted radio journalist until she finds an opportunity to travel to Bhutan. Far from home, Lisa starts anew, and helps begin Bhutan’s first youth-oriented radio station, Kuzoo FM. Understanding the impact of technology and modernism which impacts Bhutan’s fast changing culture, Lisa comes to a realization that her own notions of life have transformed. She finds a sense of purpose, fulfilment, joy and peace that had been elusive to her all these years. It is only by discovering yourself in seclusion can one really find the meaning of life or at least find peace in the process. Lisa Napoli writes a narrative that is both heartfelt and beautiful. It touches our emotions and we get to take the journey with Lisa, as she discovers that the world is a beautiful and complicated place —and comes to appreciate her life for the adventure it is.
4. Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan
The writer, her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck is the Queen Mother of Bhutan. Her book, Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan presents a true picture of Bhutan as a forbidden land that was closed to the world until 1960. Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck’s book is a memoir that amalgamates the history and culture of Bhutan closely. She shares the explorations as in a captivating travelogue which she recorded during her journey to the different regions of Bhutan. Her journey stretches across alpine villages to the north that thrive in the shadow of the Himalayas to tranquil monasteries that owe their origins to legends and mythology. But she also writes about Bhutan’s environment and the gritty details of Bhutan’s rural life that may be harsh occasionally but is filled with satisfaction nonetheless. This book contains illustrations by young Bhutanese artists and features rare photographs from the royal family’s personal albums. The book also provides unique and intimate insight into Bhutanese culture and society, with vivid glimpses of life in Bhutan’s villages and towns, monasteries and palaces. Her engaging description of her childhood, growing up in a village in western Bhutan and the changes she witnessed when the country decided to end its seclusion also tells a larger story; that of Bhutan’s quick alteration from a medieval kingdom to a modern nation within the span of a decade.
5. Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World
Bhutan offers some of the greatest trekking trails in the Himalayas. Much of the country is hidden and is reachable only by trekking. These remote hidden corners also offer fascinating sights and a rich cultural heritage. Kevin Grange’s remarkable debut, Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World is about the writer’s twenty four day trekking adventure called the Snowman Trek in Bhutan. At the age of thirty-three Kevin Grange decided to travel to Bhutan and embark on this challenging journey, one that would ultimately become a sacred experience. Written in a delightful narrative that recounts his physical endurance, his interactions with colourful characters and the explorations about faith and spirituality, make this book and interesting read. Against a background of beautiful Buddhist monasteries and towering mountains, Grange enters into a world lost in time and where everything is untouched. The purity of the place and his experience breathe life into his words. Grange uses humour to blend or ease the physically demanding experience of trekking and it exists to perhaps make the reader realize in the importance of humour while facing difficult situations. Simple things in life make the greatest sense. As Grange puts it towards the end, “They lived lives of authentic human connection—with the land, with each other, and with themselves. Last, and most important, they seemed eternally grateful for what they had.”