Kate Harris

writer & wanderer



Lands of Lost Borders


The Book


  Knopf Canada  and  HarperCollins US/UK , with translations forthcoming in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and China.

Knopf Canada and HarperCollins US/UK, with translations forthcoming in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and China.

CBC and Kirkus Best Nonfiction of 2018 • Longlisted for the RBC Taylor PrizeNew York Times Book Review “Recommended Travel Read” • Globe and Mail Bestseller • Indie Next Pick • NPR All Things Considered "Summer Reading List" • Winner of the Banff Mountain Book Award for Adventure Travel • Outside Magazine “Book Club” Pick • Amazon & Christian Science Monitor “Best Book of the Month” • “A modern classic.” —Pico Iyer

Buy at your local bookstore or here:


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.

  • Photos from Mel’s & my 2011 Cycling Silk expedition, on which the book is based.

  • Video featuring 10 months, 10 countries, & 10,000 km of the Silk Road...in roughly 10 minutes.

the land.jpg


As a young girl growing up in rural Canada, Harris dreamed of the far-off lands Marco Polo described, igniting an obsession with the world beyond the farthest bend in the road. Lands of Lost Borders is the gift Harris sends back from that beyond... With elegant, sensitive prose, she takes the reader along on her travels, shares her passion with infectious enthusiasm and invites us into her heart... That she is able to cast and maintain such a spell of wonder is no small feat. To say that Harris has become the explorer she always wanted to be is the highest praise I can think to offer.
— New York Times Book Review
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. . . 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
Lands of Lost Borders is a compelling, suspenseful, insightful and elegant travel memoir. . . The book’s title is a metaphor, of course. History and self and place all get mixed into an expression of an explorer’s desire. This is one that will have you dreaming.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
Beautifully written, a vivid conjuring of landscapes most readers have never seen. . . So many adventure memoirs detail seemingly superhuman feats of endurance that are off-limits to most mortals. Harris, instead, suggests that anyone can become an explorer simply by taking a long walk—or a bike ride—and paying close attention to the world as it passes by. . . [A] fresh new voice on what it means to be an explorer in the 21st century.
— Outside Magazine
Harris’ stunning and nuanced prose limns sweeping landscapes and offers engaging history lessons—all while maintaining a brilliant self-awareness and authenticity. Vivid, pithy descriptions read like indelible poetry, exemplifying Harris’ reverence for the interconnectedness of our world. 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)
[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)
[In this] 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, Lands of Lost Borders is a paean to wanderlust and a call for readers to launch their own explorations.
— Shelf Awareness (starred review)
Few have the guts or the stamina to bicycle the famed Silk Road, the ancient route of Marco Polo. Fewer still possess the considerable talent of Kate Harris that allowed her to write of her adventures. . . Harris shares her experiences, but she also explores the very concept of borders, both personal as well as geographic.
— Christian Science Monitor
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
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
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
2807 Cycling Silk Turkey 2011-02-02.jpg



 Photo credit:  Joanne Ratajczak /Glorious & Free.  Download here .

Photo credit: Joanne Ratajczak/Glorious & Free. Download here.

Kate Harris is a writer with a knack for getting lost. Her essays, journalism, and poetry have featured in The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Arc Poetry Magazine, and The Georgia Review, among others, 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 and a Banff Mountain Book Award, and is longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction in Canada. Canadian Geographic named her one of “Canada’s greatest modern women explorers” for journeys edging the limits of nations and prudence, such as a long bike ride on the Silk Road and a ski traverse of the Pamir mountains chasing after Marco Polo sheep. 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 visits and hot showers. 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

The Future of Exploration, The Walrus
BorderskiSidetracked Magazine
Arizona UncorkedCanadian Geographic
Lands of Lost Borders, The Georgia Review (cited in Best American Travel Writing 2015)
The Contours of Cold, CutBank (cited in Best American Essays 2013)
Tuktoyaktuk or BustThe Walrus
Antarctic Dry ValleysSierra
Solute & isotope geochemistry of subsurface ice melt seeps in AntarcticaGSA Bulletin

pinnacle climb.jpg

News & Events




 Profile & book review  in the Globe and Mail .

Profile & book review in the Globe and Mail.

+ A Kirkus Reviews and CBC “Best Nonfiction Book of 2018”
+ Longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction
+ Review 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 national newspaper 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 the Minneapolis Star Tribune
+ Profile/review in Outside Magazine
+ Travel writing Q&A with Rolf Potts
+ 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
CBC “12 books you should read this spring”
+ Named a “fearless female author” by Kobo
+ Top book pick in Vancouver Sun Spring Arts Preview
+ Q&A with my Canadian book editor in Hazlitt



+ Jan 25-26: Kamloops writing event (details tba)
+ Feb 25: Presentation at VIMFF, Vancouver, BC
+ April 12–14: Sidney LitFest, Sidney, BC
+ April 25–28: Keynote at Alberta Library Conference, Jasper


+ 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

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Email: kate@kateharris.ca / Twitter: @kateonmars / Facebook: @kateonmars / Instagram: @kateoffmars

Publicity: Ruta Liormonas (Knopf Canada) and Libby Collins (HarperCollins USA)

Speaking Engagements: Ruta Liormonas

Literary Representation: Stuart Krichevsky of the eponymous agency