Book Selection

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind book cover

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

By William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was 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. 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. Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him. (2009, William Morrow, pp.286)

To view the short documentary Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story, click here.

To view William's 2009 TED Talk, "How I Harnessed the Wind", click here.


"No magic could save us now. Starving was a cruel kind of science."

(Kamkwamba, pg. 151)

Praise for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

“William Kamkwamba’s achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.”
      –Al Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate

“This is an uplifting story, showing that big change can start small.”
     –New York Post

“This is an amazing, inspiring and heartwarming story! It’s about harnessing the power not just of the wind, but of imagination and ingenuity...William Kamkwamba is a hero for our age.”
     –Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin

“A rare and inspiring story of hope in rural Africa....William represents a new generation of Africans, using ingenuity and invention to overcome life’s challenges. Where so many tilt at windmills, William builds them!”
     –Eric Hersman,

“This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy.”
     –Publishers Weekly (starred review)



"No more skipping breakfast; no more dropping out of school. With a windmill, we'd finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger...A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom."

(Kamkwamba, pp. 169)

About the authors

William KamkwambaWilliam Kamkwamba

William grew up on his family farm in Masitala Village, Wimbe, Malawi. At age 14, William, forced out of school due to poverty, built a functioning windmill to power his family's home. After the success of the windmill project reached the capital city of Lilongwe, William was enrolled in the African Leadership Academy. He now attends Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

William was a fellow at the TEDGlobal Conference in Arusha, Tanzania and spoke at the World Economic Forum Africa in June 2008. He was also a featured speaker at TEDGlobal in 2009.

He has written a short play and is the subject of two documentaries.


William Kamkwamba

Bryan Mealer

Bryan Mealer is the author of Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town and the New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. He is also the author of All Things Must Fight to Live, which chronicled his years covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a reporter for the Associated Press and Harper's.

His work has appeared in the anthology Best American Travel Writing and was chosen for an Overseas Press Club Award Citation. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas.



"It's funny to me now - at this [TEDGlobal] conference in East Africa, with some of the world's greatest minds in science and technology just outside the door, there I was in this room seeing the Internet for the first time."

(Kamkwamba, pg. 266)

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