The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

boy who harnessed the windThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, September 29, 2009), 288 pages

William Kamkwamba, growing up in Malawi, tells us his story. He tells us about his family, his friends. A brief history of Malawi. When a severe drought (followed by famine) hits, this country of largely subsistence corn growers is starving. William can’t go to secondary school, although his parents try everything, because all the money that would have covered the fees were spent keeping them alive. Instead, William goes to the new library at the local primary school. He’s surprised by the wide selection of books and is drawn to the science texts, particularly physics.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.


He decides to build a windmill, to give his family electricity and later a water pump so they can irrigate crops. He doesn’t have any money, though, so finding the parts he needs is challenging. He heads to the scrapyard and little by little collects all the pieces he needs.

I’m not generally a lover of nonfiction, and certainly not nonfiction about scientific achievements. But this book is amazing.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is inspiring, hopeful, authentic. While I’ve never visited Malawi, some of the aspects of how it’s depicted reminded me strongly of my time in Cameroon. The writing is lovely. I was transported.

A great story, a great book. Besides that, it’s a quick read. I wish everyone would read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (and this is something I say only very rarely).

Kamkwamba gave a brief TED talk earlier this year:

Kamkwamba’s blog and Mealer’s website.

Other reviews:
Bibliophile by the Sea
Bookworm’s Dinner
Starting Fresh
Ramya’s Bookshelf
Sophisticated Dorkiness
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

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14 responses to “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

  1. oh, I’m all over this! I’m rushing to add to my tbr. THANKS!

  2. I saw him on Good Morning America yesterday. Brilliant.

    Off to check my library’s site and see if they have it!

  3. This book sounds just wonderful. I support a fantastic UK-based organization called Pump Aid that helps bring elephant pumps to African communities, and it makes such a real, tangible difference. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

    (and I understand slumps and truthfully, you are entitled to them!)

  4. I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t be able to find Malawi on a map. I might come close, but I couldn’t point to it. Now I have to go Google it…

  5. This sounds really neat. I’m generally not a fan of non fiction in the form of touchy feely inspiration but this looks good. :O)

  6. I love books like this, so I’m really looking forward to reading it. William sounds remarkable.

  7. Sounds like a great book, Hannah! I will keep it mind. 🙂

  8. Nominated you for an award, Hannah. Yeah!

  9. Hannah, thank you for this. I had this book just sitting around from ALA and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. Now, I definitely do, sooner than later! And you say it’s a good readathon selection? I might add it to my pile…

    • Well, at less than 300 pages, and as a quick-reading narrative, I’d say yes, it would be a good read-a-thon selection — particularly if you’re looking for nonfiction.

  10. Pingback: My best 2009 reads « Word Lily

  11. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: October 3, 2009 : Semicolon

  12. Pingback: Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

  13. Thanks for leaving a link to your review — I agree with you on just about everything 🙂 This is one of those books I’ll probably be pushing off on friends and family because I want more people to read it.

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