Winter 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
“This memoir is so utterly winning in the way Harris tells her life story while interweaving it with a fascinating modern day journey by bicycle along the fabled Silk Road. Her insatiable appetite for exploration and adventure is infectious. The reader will be inspired to look at the world in new ways and open themselves up to new experiences. Lands of Lost Borders is a perfect blend of history, armchair travel, and great stories.”
— Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS
"Lands of Lost Borders carried me up into a state of openness and excitement I haven’t felt for years. It’s a modern classic."—Pico Iyer
A brilliant, fierce writer, and winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize, makes her debut with this enthralling travelogue and memoir of her journey by bicycle along the Silk Road—an illuminating and thought-provoking fusion of The Places in Between, Lab Girl, and Wild that dares us to challenge the limits we place on ourselves and the natural world.
As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she craved—to be an explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From what she could tell of the world from small-town Ontario, the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth; there was nothing left to be discovered. Looking beyond this planet, she decided to become a scientist and go to Mars.
In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris set off by bicycle down the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel. Pedaling mile upon mile in some of the remotest places on earth, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. The farther she traveled, the closer she came to a world as wild as she felt within.
Lands of Lost Borders, winner of the 2018 Banff Adventure Travel Award and a 2018 Nautilus Award, is the chronicle of Harris’s odyssey and an exploration of the importance of breaking the boundaries we set ourselves; an examination of the stories borders tell, and the restrictions they place on nature and humanity; and a meditation on the existential need to explore—the essential longing to discover what in the universe we are doing here.
Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer, Kate Harris offers a travel account at once exuberant and reflective, wry and rapturous. Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of the self that can never fully be mapped. Weaving adventure and philosophy with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders celebrates our connection as humans to the natural world, and ultimately to each other—a belonging that transcends any fences or stories that may divide us.
About the Author
Kate Harris is a writer and adventurer with a knack for getting lost. Named one of Canada's top modern-day explorers, her award-winning nature and travel writing has featured in The Walrus, Canadian Geographic Travel, Sidetracked and The Georgia Review, and cited in Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing. In 2019, she was awarded the RBC Taylor Prize, one of Canada's most esteemed literature awards. She has degrees in science from MIT and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the history of science from Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes scholar. When she isn't away on expeditions, or reporting on UN environmental negotiations for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Harris lives off-grid in a log cabin on the border of the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska. This is her first book.
“Lands of Lost Borders carried me up into a state of openness and excitement I haven’t felt for years. It’s a modern classic.”
— Pico Iyer
“Kate Harris arrives among us like a meteor – a hurtling intelligence, inquiring into the nature of political borders and the meaning of crossing over. Her sheer determination to explore what she does not know compels you to travel happily alongside her in Lands of Lost Borders.”
— Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams, winner of the National Book Award
“A hymn to the pure love of travel: a brave and astonishing journey.”
— Colin Thubron, author of To a Mountain in Tibet and Shadow of the Silk Road
“There’s something undeniably intoxicating about the blank page of youth begin written upon. And write Harris can. With elegant, sensitive prose, she takes the reader along on her travels, shares her passion with infectious enthusiasm and invites us into her heart.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Kate Harris has an explorer’s brave heart, a scholar’s cataloging brain, and a writer’s keen eye. She beautifully captures what it means to cross borders, both geographic and psychic, as one embarks on the grand adventure that is growing up.”
— Rachel Friedman, author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost
“This fascinating book, about an unbridled desire for exploration, completely thrilled me. Getting to ride alongside Kate on her Silk Road journey is the literary adventure of a lifetime.”
— Leigh Stein, author of Land of Enchantment
“With humor, deep sentiment, and often poetic prose, Harris takes the reader not only through “the stans” (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, etc.) of Asia, but also through the history and current state of adventure travel…Exemplary travel writing: inspiring, moving, heartfelt, and often breathtaking.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Beautifully rendered...Harris’s talent is in her prose, as she offers breathtaking descriptions of the Silk Road, shrouded in mystery and wonder.”
— Publishers Weekly
“In her luminous, incisive memoir, Harris chronicles her permanent wanderlust, her twisting career path and the months she spent cycling the Silk Road with her best friend...Lyrical, brilliant and sharply observed, it is a paean to wanderlust and a call for readers to launch their own explorations.”
— Shelf Awareness
“Her captivating memoir will inspire readers to question their self-imposed boundaries and map out new adventures.”
— Real Simple
“A compelling, suspenseful, insightful and elegant travel memoir. This is one that will have you dreaming.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Harris’ stunning and nuanced prose limns sweeping landscapes and offers engaging history lessons—all while maintaining a brilliant self-awareness and authenticity. Lands of Lost Borders is illuminating, heart-warming, and hopeful in its suggestion that we will explore not to conquer but to connect.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“An immersive and keenly observed debut...an uncompromising, breathless record.”
— New York Journal of Books