Kate Harris

author & adventurer



Lands of Lost Borders


The Book


Cover of the Knopf Canada edition. The book will also be released in the USA and translated into French, German, and Chinese.

Cover of the Knopf Canada edition. The book will also be released in the USA and translated into French, German, and Chinese.

Pre-order in the USA
Dey Street/HarperCollins

(Pub date: Aug. 21, 2018)


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.


Can't wait for the book? Check out this "highlights" film reel from my and Melissa Yule's 2011 Cycling Silk expedition (on which the book is based), showcasing ten months, ten countries, and ten thousand kilometers of the Silk Road...in ten minutes!

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The Buzz

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.  The honesty behind her self-doubt, her championing of simple human friendship, and her sheer determination to explore what she does not know, compel you to travel happily alongside her in Lands of Lost Borders.
— Barry Lopez
This is a hymn to the pure love of travel: a brave and astonishing journey.
— Colin Thubron
Here you have everything you could possibly want in a travel narrative: a sense of wonder and discovery, the raw texture of the Silk Road seen inch by inch, on a bicycle, in sleet and sun, up at 17,000 feet and down under the guard rails of a forbidden (and possibly pointless) border. All the way the author’s quicksilver intelligence and curiosity shine a light on everything in her path. Kate Harris is a true explorer, a goof, and a sublime writer.
— Marni Jackson
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
Old cliché: I couldn’t put it down. But beyond the fact that Kate’s story hooked me, I realized that I was witnessing the emergence of a formidable voice speaking startlingly original things about the world. I can’t remember coming upon a first book that so dazzled me.
— David Roberts
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Photo credit: Joanne Ratajczak/Glorious & Free

Photo credit: Joanne Ratajczak/Glorious & Free

Kate Harris is a writer with a grudge against borders and a knack for getting lost. Her writing has been featured in The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Sierra, CutBank, 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 has won several awards for her nonfiction writing, including the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award. She lives off-grid in a log cabin in Atlin, British Columbia.

Lands of Lost Borders is her first book.

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Why write?

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.”

Select Publications


Essay about borders and biking the Silk Road, published in The Georgia Review (Fall 2014) and cited in Best American Travel Writing 2015. Read it online here and check out photos here.

"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."


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 2013You can read it here, and check out photos 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."


BorderskiSidetracked Magazine
Arizona UncorkedCanadian Geographic
Two PoemsDrunken Boat
Tuktoyaktuk or BustThe Walrus
Antarctic Dry ValleysSierra
Solute and isotope geochemistry of subsurface ice melt seeps in Taylor Valley, AntarcticaGeological Society of America Bulletin

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News & Events




+ Profile and book review in the Globe and Mail
Lands of Lost Borders hits the Globe and Mail and CBC bestseller lists in its first week on sale in Canada!
+ An appearance on The Morning Show on Global News
+ Book excerpt in Canadian Geographic about sneaking into Tibet
Conversation with my Canadian book editor in Hazlitt
Maclean's interview about the book & biking the Silk Road
+ Book excerpt in The Toronto Star about cycling the Black Sea
+ Named one of 21 nonfiction books to watch for in 2018 by the CBC
+ One of 33 "audacious Canadians" in Glorious & Free book
+ Cover story on Borderski in The Explorers Journal
+ Interviewed by Guernica Magazine
+ Featured in The Art of Wild film
Borderski film teaser featured on Outside
+ Named one of Canada's top 100 modern-day explorers
+ Featured on Outside.com and in VOGUE Germany
+ Named one of Canada's top 10 adventurers by Explore
+ Winner of Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award


+ April 21, 2018Earth Day Book Talk at the Canadian Ecology Centre
+ July 6-8: Atlin Arts and Music Festival (details to come)
+ October 31-Nov.4: Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival (details to come)


+  Ben McNally Books & Brunch event
+ Keynote at 2017 Outward Bound USA National Benefit Dinner
+ Panelist at 2016 Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival

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For Kate's agent, please contact Stuart Krichevsky:

Tel: (212) 725-5288 | sk@skagency.com

For Canadian media inquiries, please contact Ruta Liormonas at Knopf Canada:

Tel: (416) 557-5518 | rliormonas@penguinrandomhouse.com

For US media inquiries, please contact Matthew Daddona at Dey Street/HarperCollins:

Tel: (212) 207-7415 | matthew.daddona@harpercollins.com