Book review: the boy who harnessed the wind by William kamkwamba

Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba

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Want to know if The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba is worth the read? Here’s my full review to help you decide

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The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind Info

Author: William Kamkwamba

Rating: 5/5

Where to buy The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Amazon | Kinokuniya


William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was a mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala—crazy—but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi’s top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family’s farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Soon, news of William’s magetsi a mphepo—his “electric wind”—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.


I borrowed The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba from my local library, Pustaka Miri during my monthly library visit which to be honest is unnecessary because I have yet to finish most of the books I borrow as I am still knee deep in my reading slump. 

But that’s not the point the point is, the book caught my attention because I actually knew about it. Not due to any book reviews or the like but because I knew this book had a movie adaptation. What I didn’t realize at the time was the fact that the book is based on a true story.

Also, another thing I didn’t realize was the fact that the book I borrowed was the younger readers edition. I only realized it as I was close to finishing the book because I thought to myself, 

“Huh this book sure has simple language that can be understood by kids. Neat!”

Looking back I feel like an idiot.

All anecdotes out of the way, let’s start talking about my review of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for anybody and everybody. This book is so inspiring for me because William did not live an easy life in Malawi.

He had to drop out of school at a young age as his family didn’t have the money to pay for his tuition fees and this broke William’s young heart because he loved going to school, he loved learning new things especially science and he loved getting to have a normal routine of studying and playing with his friends.

It wasn’t just his family who was in dire straits at the time but the whole of Malawi due to the famine that struck the country. Life was looking really bleak for William but one thing made him have hope and a semblance of normalcy which was the library.

It was at the library where William would find a science book that explained how windmills worked. I really find William’s tenacity and curiosity for everything around him refreshing and truly inspiring because he couldn’t go to school but that didn’t stop him from just trying to replicate the things he was reading off of the library books.

William didn’t have much opportunity to expand his knowledge but whatever opportunity he had he took it and made the most out of it.

The other aspect that stood out for me regarding this book aside from William’s keen intellect and burning desire to attain knowledge was how his family and friends were supportive of him doing all these experiments that they at the time couldn’t understand. 

I mean their son wanted to build a windmill just to try and see if he could and before William was successful in building one there were many unsuccessful attempts. His family at times does find his activities annoying but that was mostly because William in the book used his mother’s good pots and pans to conduct his experiments which honestly would make anybody mad.

Even so, his family never outright stopped him nor did they see his experiments as a waste of time. Instead they encouraged him and believed that his experiments if successful can help their family. It’s just really refreshing to see parents who are supportive and loving towards their son and his eccentricities.

The book is a great book for kids because it talks about the harsh realities of life with easy to understand sentences and phrases. In this book, William talks about the struggles of trying to survive a famine, the pain he felt when he had to commit mercy killing for his pet dog, the insecurity and fear for the future and many more. 

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba honestly made me tear up because I was rooting for him. I wanted him to be successful in his journey to build his windmill and in helping his family but most of all in his desire to continue his studies. 

When William finally could continue his high school studies I was so happy for him and reading how he was invited for a TEDx talk because of his windmill I was over the moon because it would open up the gates of opportunities for him. 

Of course, I know that William is a grown man now and is very successful but seeing his struggles as a child and a young man just touched my heart.

Although the book’s target audience is kids, it still made me reflect on a lot of things. One of the things were the short term vs long term actions of William pursuing a higher education.

I say this because had the family only seen the short term vision which was to prevent William from pursuing a higher education as that would mean he had to leave his family behind and leaving his father to tend to the fields alone without his help he wouldn’t have been able to sincerely pursue his mission of going for a higher education which would lead to him in turn bring his family out of poverty.

The long term vision would be to let William pursue his dreams and they would unfortunately have to tough it out for a few years whilst he is gone to have a sliver of opportunity to get out of poverty through Williams eventual success after obtaining undergraduate degree (I can’t recall is William continued to get his postgraduate’s degree though).

There’s also thoughts of corruption and how greed lead to immense deforestation which then lead to flash floods happening that caused most of the locals crops to be destroyed which contributed to the famine that was happening in Malawi at the time. 

A lot of thoughts basically come out from reading this book, of which I can’t articulate very well.

Would I recommend The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba? Of course!

Also, side note I have a reading vlog of me reading the book you can check it out if you so wish. It’s not the best reading vlog because I keep forgetting to record myself reading it.

Hope you enjoy my rambling review as well as my reading vlog of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba.

If you enjoyed my review of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba then you might enjoy my other reviews

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