As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved—that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From her small-town home in Ontario, it seemed as if Marco Polo, Magellan and their like had long ago mapped the whole earth. So she vowed to become a scientist and go to Mars.
Well along this path, Harris set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule. This trip was just a simulacrum of exploration, she thought, not the thing itself—a little adventure to pass the time until she could launch for outer space. But somewhere in between sneaking illegally across Tibet, studying the history of science and exploration at Oxford, and staring down a microscope for a doctorate at MIT, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks, leaving footprints on another planet: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. And where she'd felt that most intensely was on a bicycle, on a bygone trading route. So Harris quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Yule, this time determined to bike it from beginning to end.
Weaving adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of a world that, like the self and like the stars, can never be fully mapped.
Kate Harris is a writer with a grudge against borders and a knack for getting lost. Her essays, travel features, and poetry have appeared in The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Sierra, CutBank, Arc Poetry Magazine, and The Georgia Review, among other publications, and cited in Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing. A Rhodes scholar and Morehead-Cain scholar, she was named one of Canada’s top modern-day explorers and in 2012 won the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award. Her journeys edging the limits of nations, science, and sanity have taken her to all seven continents, often by ski or bike. She's been profiled in Guernica, The Globe and Mail, VOGUE Germany, and the short film The Art of Wild. When she isn't wandering the world for work and play, she lives off-grid with her wife and dog in a log cabin in Atlin, British Columbia. Lands of Lost Borders is her first book.
As Virginia Woolf put it,
"That would be a glorious life, to addict oneself to perfection; to follow the curve of the sentence wherever it may lead, into deserts, under drifts of sand, regardless of lures, of seductions; to be poor always and unkempt; to be ridiculous in Piccadilly."
Or from Robert Bly's perspective,
“If you have a tiny farm, you need to love poetry more than the farm. If you sell apples, you need to love poetry more than the apples. It’s good to settle down somewhere and love poetry more than that.”
LANDS OF LOST BORDERS
"My obsession with borders was born all at once in three different countries, depending on who you ask. I was in my early twenties, biking with a friend across the parched soda plains of the Askai Chin. For weeks we traversed this high-altitude wilderness, a land spread wide as wings, folded here and there into mountains. Turquoise lakes glimmered in the distance like puddles of sky. The horizon was more a hesitation than a hard edge, and every so often it spat out a dust tornado that would skim across the road just meters ahead of us, its flue curved into a question mark missing its point.
On a daily basis the wild fact of being here knocked me sideways with astonishment. Where on this spinning world was I? Ask a Chinese, and I was in China; an Indian, and I was in India; a Tibetan, and I was in Tibet. Ask me, and I was in paradise, no further names necessary."
THE CONTOURS OF COLD
Essay about an off-season ski traverse of the Hardangervidda Plateau in Norway, published by CutBank, reprinted in Drunken Boat, and cited in Best American Essays 2013. You can read it here.
"There is nothing practical whatsoever about this expedition: we have no ambitions to make history, plant flags, claim territory, collect specimens, chart maps, win fame, or curry the favors of kings and queens. We are simply here to study the contours of cold, and apprentice ourselves to wildness along the way. The goal is something like sublimation, ice loosed straight to sky."
The Future of Exploration, Walrus Magazine
Borderski, Sidetracked Magazine
Arizona Uncorked, Canadian Geographic
Two Poems, Drunken Boat
Tuktoyaktuk or Bust, The Walrus
Antarctic Dry Valleys, Sierra
Solute and isotope geochemistry of subsurface ice melt seeps in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, Geological Society of America Bulletin
News & Events
+ Maclean's features LOLB as one of "the 15 books you should read this summer"
+ Guest on CBC's The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti
+ Profile and book review in the Globe and Mail
+ Appearance on Global News' The Morning Show
+ CBC says Lands of Lost Borders is one of the 12 books you should read this spring
+ Named a "fearless female author" by Kobo on International Women's Day (click on photo for Q&A)
+ Top book pick in the Vancouver Sun's Spring Arts Preview
+ Interview on Time to Eat the Dogs podcast
+ "How I Wrote It" with CBC Books
+ Sneaking into Tibet excerpt in Canadian Geographic
+ Q&A with my Canadian book editor in Hazlitt
+ Biking the Black Sea excerpt in The Toronto Star
+ Lands of Lost Borders named one of 21 nonfiction books to watch for in 2018 by the CBC
+ One of 33 "audacious Canadians" featured in Glorious & Free book
+ August 21: US edition of LOLB on sale!
+ September 7-9: Eden Mills Writers Festival
+ September 26-30: Kingston Writers Festival
+ October 2-5: Thinking Mountains Summit, Banff
+ October 12-14: Haystack Book Talks Festival, Norfolk, CT, USA
+ October 15-19: Vancouver Writers Festival
+ October 20-21: Morehead-Cain Alumni Forum
+ October 31-Nov.4: Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival talk and memoir panel
+ July 6-8: Atlin Arts and Music Festival
+ April 28: Ottawa Writers Festival
+ April 21: Earth Day Book Talk at the Canadian Ecology Centre
+ April 16: WordFest in Calgary
+ April 13: Whistler Writers Fest
+ January 24: Ben McNally Books and Brunch
For Kate's agent, please contact Stuart Krichevsky:
Tel: (212) 725-5288 | firstname.lastname@example.org
For US media or event inquiries, please contact Libby Collins at Dey Street/HarperCollins:
Tel: (212) 207-7061 | email@example.com
For Canadian media, event, or speaking inquiries, please contact Ruta Liormonas at Knopf Canada:
Tel: (416) 557-5518 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having me speak at your US-based conference or event?
Contact the HarperCollins Speakers Bureau.