Book Review: The Boy who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba

Like many, my introduction to William Kamkwamba came in the form of a slightly awkward but similarly fascinating speech that he gave as a young man to the TED Conference in Africa. Speaking before a collection of billionaires and entrepreneurs, William spilled out what little he could of his story in short fragmented answers to the interviewers questions. One such fragment, simple in its constructions, resonating throughout the hall and amongst the net when he spoke about building his first windmill: “And I try and I made it”. That he made it is not simply a battle against the wind, but a battle just to survive long enough to get to that point. Much of the book, most of the book takes place before William has ever even heard of TED and the story since then. The prejudices of his community, the superstitions that held back so many, and most notably, the terrible famine that struck his village. You may have seen photos of a starving kid in Africa but you’ve probably never heard their stories in such a conversational style. William relays the details of the famine as a blogger would telling the story of his day. It’s simply a gripping read, a story not heard often in the West, and makes his eventual triumph all the more amazing. The overall book itself is a quick read. I plowed through it in a few days with a smile often on my face, an occasional chuckle and a few moments in which I said to myself “they’ll put this part in the movie for sure”. It’s a good story from a land where happy endings are far too few and far between. I would recommend it for those who are seeking an inspirational tale or who have an interest in science and the learning process. I would also recommend a quick review of the TED video and a few others that exist on the net to get some visuals in your head of what William looks and sounds like so you can put a face to the name and a sound to the voice.]]>