Winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize • Finalist for the 2019 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize • A CBC and Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 • Globe and Mail Bestseller • Indie Next Pick • New York Times Book Review Recommended Travel Read • NPR All Things Considered "Summer Reading List" • Winner of the Banff Mountain Book Award for Adventure Travel • Outside Magazine Book Club Pick • Amazon and Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Month
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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.
Silver medals at elementary school science fairs are excellent predictors of a glorious future in getting lost. The more serious the photo, the wilder the journeys to come. Melissa “Mel” Yule and Kate in 1993.
Looking giddy and pale with sunscreen in Leh, India, here we are (Kate and Mel) after getting off our bikes for the very last time on the Silk Road, 2011.
Check out more photos from the Silk Road.
Here’s a video we threw together with iMovie featuring 10 months, 10 countries, & 10,000 km of our 2011 Silk Road bike ride...in roughly 10 minutes.
Here’s another Kate & Mel iMovie documentary special, this time about our first bike ride on the Silk Road in 2006. We never got around to making episodes 2 or 3.
Kate Harris is a writer with a knack for getting lost. Her essays and journalism have appeared in Outside, The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, and The Georgia Review, among other publications, with citations in Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing. A former Rhodes and Morehead-Cain scholar, and past student of science and the history of science, she has received the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, the Banff Mountain Book Award for Adventure Travel, and the RBC Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction. Canadian Geographic named her one of the country’s top modern-day explorers for her journeys edging the limits of nations and prudence, such as a biking across borders on the Silk Road and skiing after Marco Polo sheep in the Pamirs, but writing is her preferred mode of exploration.
Kate lives off-grid in a log cabin with her wife and dog on the border of British Columbia and the Yukon, with stints in Ontario for family time, her wife’s job, and hot showers. 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.”
Why the World Needs Barry Lopez, Outside (2019)
Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever, The Walrus (2019)
The Future of Exploration, The Walrus (2018)
Borderski, Sidetracked Magazine (2017)
Lands of Lost Borders, The Georgia Review (“notable” selection in Best American Travel Writing 2015)
The Contours of Cold, CutBank (“notable” selection in Best American Essays 2013)
Tuktoyaktuk or Bust, The Walrus (2014)
Solute & isotope geochemistry of subsurface ice melt seeps in Antarctica, GSA Bulletin
News & Events
+ Winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize
+ Finalist for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize
+ A Kirkus & CBC “Best Nonfiction Book of 2018”
+ Featured in New York Times Book Review
+ Listed by the National Book Critics Circle board as “one of this year's favourite books by a debut author in any genre”
+ Profile in The Guardian
+ Featured on 35 over 35 list for best debut books
+ Review in India’s The Hindu
+ Banff Mountain Book Award for Adventure Travel
+ Condé Nast Traveler “Women Who Travel” podcast
+ Recommended on NPR “All Things Considered”
+ September Book Club Pick for Outside Magazine
+ Review in Minneapolis Star Tribune
+ Profile/review in Outside Magazine
+ Travel writing Q&A with Rolf Potts
+ A Christian Science Monitor #1 book pick for August
+ One of Maclean’s “15 books you should read this summer”
+ Interview on CBC The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti
+ Profile and review in The Globe and Mail
+ Interview on Global News The Morning Show
+ A CBC “12 books you should read this spring” pick
+ Named a “fearless female author” by Kobo
+ Top book pick in Vancouver Sun Spring Arts Preview
+ Q&A with Canadian book editor in Hazlitt
+ April 12–13: Sidney LitFest, Sidney, BC
+ April 26: Keynote at Alberta Library Conference, Jasper, AB
+ Oct 1: Heliconian Literary Lecture Series, Toronto, ON
+ Oct 16-19: Keynote at North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) Conference, Tacoma, WA
+ Jan 25: Kamloops Society for the Written Arts, Kamloops, BC
+ Feb 22: Wilderness and Canoe Symposium, Toronto, ON
+ Feb 25: VIMFF, Vancouver, BC
+ Feb 28: RBC Taylor Prize Finalists in Conversation, IFOA, Toronto
+ Mar 3: Ben McNally Books and Brunch, Toronto
+ Mar 5: University of Toronto—Mississauga free public talk
+ Jan 24: Ben McNally Books and Brunch, Toronto, ON
+ March 1: Bookshelf Cafe reading, Guelph, ON
+ March 3: Book presentation, Hillsburgh, ON
+ March 18: Salt Spring Forum, Salt Spring Island, BC
+ April 10: Bolen Books reading, Victoria, BC
+ April 12: The Hive book reading, Vancouver, BC
+ April 13: Whistler Writers Fest, Whistler, BC
+ April 16: WordFest, Calgary, AB
+ April 21: Earth Day Book Talk, Canadian Ecology Centre
+ April 24: Rockway Mennonite Collegiate visit, ON
+ April 28: Ottawa Writers Festival, ON
+ May 16: Gibson’s Landing Library event, BC
+ July 6-8: Atlin Arts and Music Festival, BC
+ Sept 7-9: Eden Mills Writers Festival, ON
+ Sept 12: presentation at the Elora Gorge Cinema, ON
+ Sept 22: Books & Oshawa Bike Paths reading, ON
+ Oct 12-14: Haystack Book Talks, Norfolk, CT
+ Oct 15-19: Vancouver Writers Festival, BC
+ Oct 20-21: Morehead-Cain Alumni Forum, NC
+ Oct 22: Flyleaf Books reading, Chapel Hill, NC
+ Oct 31-Nov.4, 2018: Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival
+ Nov 16: YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast keynote, ON