2021 Book Selection - "The Boy who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope" by William Kamkwamba

All members of the School of Engineering and Applied Science come together in small groups at the start of every year for the Common Reading Experience (CRE) to enjoy a lively discussion about a book or movie selected by the CRE committee. Through the CRE, we will foster a culture of belonging and inclusion in our community, and also to promote our shared goals of equity, and discuss the role of engineering and technology in the modern world.


This year the CRE committee has selected "The Boy who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope" by William Kamkwamba. 

This is the true story of William Kamkwamba, a young boy on a farm in the village of Wimbe, Malawi. Deforestation, drought, and a corrupt government collide to bring famine to his village as crops fail. William returns water to his village by harnessing the power of the wind. It is an extraordinary story of ingenuity and grit in the face of extreme hardships. The book this year, also available as a fantastic movie on Netflix, is The Boy who Harnessed the Wind

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We will gather input on next year's book and media selection in the spring.

We selected the following books for the CRE in recent years:

  • 2019 Bad Blood:Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
  • 2018 Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley
  • 2017 Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  • 2016 Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean
  • 2015 Spare Parts by Joshua Davis
  • 2014 Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring and the Race to Revive America
  • 2013 The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
  • 2012 To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski
  • 2011 Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
  • 2010 The Viking in the Wheat Field: a Scientist's Struggle to Preserve the World's Harvest by Susan Dworkin
  • 2009 The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • 2008 America 1908 by Jim Rasenbergerto
  • 2007 Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
  • 2006 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • 2005 The Rocket Boys by Homer Hickham, Jr.
  • 2004 The Human Factor: Revolutionizing the Way People Live With Technology by Kim Vicente
  • 2003 Hacker Cracker: A Journey from the Mean Streets of Brooklyn to the Frontiers of Cyberspace by Ejovi Nuwere
  • 2002 Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • 2001 Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
  • 2000 Managing Martians by Donna Shirley
  • 1999 Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder
  • 1998 Airframe by Michael Crichton
  • 1997 A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
  • 1996 Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
  • 1995 A Scientist in the City by James Trefil
  • 1994 The Control of Nature by John McPhee
  • 1993 The Final Forrest by William Dietrich and The Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin

Prior to the Engineering School CRE, the University selected the following books for faculty-student discussions:

  • 1990 Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  • 1989 All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • 1988 Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody