Kate Harris

author & adventurer



Lands of Lost Borders


The Book


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

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

Knopf Canada

* Globe & Mail bestseller

* CBC bestseller


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? Here's a "highlights" reel from the 2011 Cycling Silk expedition on which the book is based, showcasing ten months, ten countries, and ten thousand kilometers of the Silk Road...in roughly ten minutes!

the land.jpg

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
Extraordinary. . . Lands of Lost Borders . . . is rich not only because of the adventures it recounts, but in the telling of them. It isn’t so much a travelogue as it is a contemplation of what pushes us out the door and how we change out there in the world before we return to our own little corner of it. This is not the type of book you want to motor through. Instead, it slows you down, so you can appreciate what you’re experiencing – almost like a trip on a bicycle across an astonishing landscape. You find yourself wanting to linger, rereading passages built of sentences so beautiful they demand to be read out loud – even if no one else is in the room.
— The Globe and Mail
[A] journey that beautifully reveals much about the history and nature of exploration itself. Exemplary travel writing: inspiring, moving, heartfelt, and often breathtaking.
— Kirkus (starred review)
Lyrical, brilliant and sharply observed, Lands of Lost Borders is a paean to wanderlust and a call for readers to launch their own explorations.
— Shelf Awareness
Beautifully rendered… debut…. Harris’s talent is in her prose, as she offers breathtaking descriptions of the Silk Road, shrouded in mystery and wonder.
— Publishers Weekly
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
Kate Harris is a writer who will never settle for anything ordinary. Adventurers occupy ‘parallel solitudes’. Mountains take on ‘a fury of forms’. This is a book which searches for ‘the deepest wonder, nothing less’ both in the journeys it recounts and the language it uses. Remarkable and inspirational.
— Helen Mort
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
2807 Cycling Silk Turkey 2011-02-02.jpg



 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 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 MailVOGUE 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.

atlin cabin in winter.jpg

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.

"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.

"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
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

pinnacle climb.jpg

News & Events




 Profile & book review  in the Globe and Mail .

Profile & book review in the Globe and Mail.

+ 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 21Earth 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

288 Cycling Silk for Sadie 2012.jpg






For Kate's agent, please contact Stuart Krichevsky:

Tel: (212) 725-5288 | sk@skagency.com

For US media or event inquiries, please contact Libby Collins at Dey Street/HarperCollins:

Tel: (212) 207-7061 | libby.collins@harpercollins.com

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

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

Interested in having me speak at your US-based conference or event? 

Contact the HarperCollins Speakers Bureau.