The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind [Giveaway]


We are giving away one (1) copy of this book to a random commenter at the end of Friday, December 18, 2009.*

Recently, Harper Collins was kind enough to send a review copy of a new book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  It's the story of William Kamkwamba, a youngster in Malawi who built a home-made wind turbine to light his home.  Before reading the book, I thought it was going to be about William's discovery of wind power and how that changed his family and life.  It was that.  But the discovery of wind power was really only a fraction of this touching story.  This is one of the top books of the year.

I guess you could say three things happened before William learned to harness the wind.  Spoiler …

First, and probably foremost, William had a curiosity for learning and technical information.  (Before learning the basics of power, William tinkered with radios and turned his hobby into a small business.)  Second, tragedy struck with a drought, which created serious and devastating famine and poverty.  Third, in poverty and hunger, Williams was forced to drop out of school due to lack of funds. 

Without giving away the entire story, William stumbled upon the idea of molding the wind to his desired use.  Having experienced poverty of the worst kind, he wrote:

"All I needed was a windmill, and then I could have lights.  No more kerosene lamps that burned our eyes and sent us gasping for breath.  With a windmill, I could stay awake at night reading instead of going to bed at seven with the rest of Malawi.  But most important, a windmill could also rotate a pump for water and irrigation.  Having just come out of the hunger — and with famine still affecting many parts of the country — the idea of a water pump now seemed incredibly necessary … 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."

But, the story isn't as uncomplicated as merely gathering parts and putting a turbine together.  William countered local attitudes, poverty, and an utter lack of resources to create his first working turbine.  Eventually, his creation of "electric wind" led to other discoveries, but I'll leave that for your reading. 

This is a sad story (with the loss of friends, family, and even poor little Khamba), as well as a story of triumph (money from donors has been used for his family, friends, and village).  Through an amazing alignment of circumstance and blessing, news of the cobbled together wind mill trickled out to journalists.  Soon thereafter, William was accepted as a TED Global Fellow. 

So, if you like to read and you're on the hunt for something meaningful and inspiring — a story as much about culture, education, and innovation as about life, death, and opportunity — I recommend you buy a copy of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Also, make sure to read William's blog, follow his Twitter account, and stay tuned for a film called Moving Windmills.

*If you're interested in winning a copy of this book, drop a comment by midnight MST on Friday, December 18, 2009.  Say where you're from if you don't know what to say.  By leaving a comment, you agree to the terms and conditions relating to giveaways on Jetson Green.

  • Anonymous

    I love stories like this.

  • Anonymous

    This book is on my Christmas list. I always pick 1 book that I think will be inspirational and uplifting…..

  • leeder

    love to have this book from Santa

  • Anonymous

    this morning i read in the local newspaper that they were considering nuclear power in our province. i was thinking to myself, instead of this controversial energy mode why don’t they invest in more wind power? would love to read this book!

    • danT

      because wind power give VERY little power…

  • Brady S.

    This would make an ideal gift for my girlfriend, an installation artist who relishes in creative thinking and ingenuity. Hopefully I can surprise her with this great book.

    I really dig William’s determination and pursuit for better living. Thanks for turning us on to this story and interesting read.

  • matthew h smith

    excellent and applicable story about the energy needs and the realities surrounding many. maybe i ll check it out at my library if i dont win 😉

  • C.J. Randall

    A handful of us from Cornell University’s City & Regional Planning department just presented a webinar to upstate New York policymakers on the green economy and one of the topics was wind power. I can’t believe how much there is to know about siting and ice throw (a simple physics and design issue, and not quite the harbinger of disaster some would like to purport). Anyway, we’re all about green jobs and harnessing the energy all around us, so I’ll check this book out. Thanks!

  • Adam

    Looks like a great read

  • Mindy

    would love to read this great book.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a good read. Commenting from Oakland, CA!

  • Anonymous

    Inspirering & a feel good book for not so feel good times.
    Sundance, Wyoming

  • Anonymous

    I am from Uruguay and I am very concerned about small residential wind mills.

  • Anonymous

    This book is one I would very much like to read, and I hope to win a copy.
    It’s not so much about the windmill/energy topic that is pulling my interest, but the inspirational and gutsy part that leads to triumph. I’m fascinated by such stories, and could never tire of reading them.

    • Preston

      Sinnder, congrats, you’ve won the book! I’ll email you separately to get your address for shipping. Best of luck to everyone else on our next book giveaways!

  • Anonymous

    Writing from Miami…where we definitely could use some inspiration…we are currently fighting against an additional two nuclear power plants that are going to require massive amounts of water for cooling that we don’t have, and land for power lines that are going to encroach on our Everglades National Park…not to mention what it’s going to do to our Biscayne National Park bay where the current plant is located!
    Miami must learn to harness the wind as well!

  • Brian Charles Clark

    Awesome, I’d love a copy of this book. Here in Pullman, Wash., we’re trying to get our wind-power act together.

  • Preston

    I saw this guy on TED and also on The Daily Show. What a inspiring dude!

  • Michelle

    I’m always looking for a great read, and find this particular story inspiring and intelligent. I write for a green building blog and this seems like a great story to highlight. I especially like the title, I’ve recently read the book Eco-Economy by Lester Brown and he also talks about “harnessing (or harvesting) the wind” and how farmers could lease land to wind turbine developers to generate electricity.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds very inspirational! I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a great book. Can’t wait to read it.

  • Joanna

    I am putting this on my reading list! I work for a non profit organization that works in Malawi creating sustainable water and sanitation systems. I visited the Chikwawa region earlier this year and saw some of these conditions firsthand. I was lucky enough to spend time with the villagers and witness just how, like William, welcoming, hardworking and dedicated Malawians are.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a very motivational story. This young man figured out something that a large part of our country still hasn’t – energy independence using renewables IS freedom.

  • Nick Allen

    Very cool – would love to read the whole story!

  • Anonymous

    would love to get my hands on the book. Someone sent me a few pages of it and i was hooked! just wish i could have the rest now :)

  • Anonymous

    this book sounds interesting

  • chuck

    If I could only harvest my own personal wind…and my birthday IS on the 18th by the way…

  • Stephanie

    I heard the author speak recently and was amazed by his story. My kids are itching to build one in our front yard 😉 Awesome give away!

  • Anonymous

    “The greatness comes only when you are truly tested.”

    It is always great to read stories of innovation and devotion. I look forward to reading this!

  • Brian

    This would be an excellent addition to my small but growing library of books I am going to use to each the “Energy” and “Electricity” Merit Badges in my son’s Boy Scout Troop.

    Do you hear me Santa? I’ve tried to be good this year. :)

  • Brian

    Sorry for the typo. I will ‘teach’ the Merit Badges, not ‘each’ them. man I hate these fat fingers! :)

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a great book – one I’ll read even if I don’t win.

  • RC

    Looks like it’ll be an enjoyable read. Plus, this coming Monday is my birthday!

  • bucky

    I’ve heard good things about this book. Looking forward to reading it.

  • Esteban

    I have to say I really am intrigued by how a boy in Africa could achieve all this. Here in Mexico there are more technical resources than most countries in Africa but I doubt that many could self develop the technical know how.
    Congratulations. If I don’t win the book I’m going to buy it!

  • BBob

    Could save some carbon and trees, and instead of buying this book just spend a few minutes googling how to make a wind turbine — that’s probably how this kid did it anyway…. Oh wait, you don’t actually care about that, you just want to look pretentious to your friends having it sitting on the coffee table.

    • esteban

      Y’know BBob … I’m NABCEP certified (you can google that) so I know how to make a wind generator much better than William. I and others think his story is inspiring and we want to read the book to see for our selves the wonder of a kid in a third world country who can come up with this kind of solution. May I suggest you point your browser here : and see how the intelligent world views William’s achievements.

  • Esteban

    So … who got the book?

    • Preston

      Sinnder won, but we haven’t heard from this person. Will pick another winner shortly.

  • manny

    great article…I have just placed an order for the book

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