In 2005, Guitar World senior writer Alan Paul and his family opted for a dramatic lifestyle change, when Paul’s wife, Rebecca Blumenstein, accepted a position as the Wall Street Journal’s China bureau chief. This decision necessitated the uprooting of the couple and three young children from their suburban New Jersey digs to an expat enclave in Beijing, China. Here, Paul took the opportunity to reinvent himself, not only by embracing a new culture but also by stepping up his efforts on the guitar, transforming from a basement player into a gigging musician. He became the lead singer and rhythm player for Woodie Alan, a group consisting of a fellow American and three Chinese musicians.

Big In China chronicles the development of the group, which would go on to be named 2008 Beijing Band of the Year by a local magazine, release a CD of original material and headline a festival before an audience of 5000 local fans. While Paul’s musical journey is engaging in its own right, the book offers much more to the reader, as it addresses issues of home, family, fatherhood and finding one’s place in the world, whether one is an expat writer on loan from Jersey or a would-be monk ensconced in a Chinese mountain range. It’s a heartening, uplifting story that resonates.