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Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,168 ratings  ·  492 reviews

"Every day on a bike trip is like the one before--but it is also completely different, or perhaps you are different, woken up in new ways by the mile."

As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved--that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swa
Paperback, 300 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Vintage Books Canada (first published January 30th 2018)
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Hillsullivan You hit the nail on the head. She talks about the Wright Brothers, and many thoughts that might wander through your head while riding, but very littl…more You hit the nail on the head. She talks about the Wright Brothers, and many thoughts that might wander through your head while riding, but very little about the adventure itself. She was not on the bike 1/3 a way into the book and I am 1/2 way done and thinkin of not finishing. I am listening and travel books are hardly ever e-audio, so I guess I would not consider this a travel book.(less)

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Will Byrnes
The end of the road was always just out of sight. Cracked asphalt deepened into night beyond the reach of our headlamps, the thin beams swallowed by the blackness that receded before us no matter how fast we biked. Light was a kind of pavement thrown down in front of our wheels, and the road went on and on. If you ever reach the end, I remember thinking, I’ll fly off the rim of the world. I pedaled harder.
Some lights shine brighter. The sky is full of stars, all with their distinct glow, c
Sep 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
What a disappointing book. Kate came across as incredibly privileged. I wouldn't have minded reading a book about a woman who biked across Asia and read about her journey from start to finish. I would have loved reading about a woman who travels off the beaten path and makes deep meaningful relationships with people and their cultures. Reading her boast for pages and pages about how she's an explorer and destined for greatness, chronicling her Oxford and MIT experiences didn't wow me. Was it sup ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beyond avenging my childhood ideals of explorers, and figuring out how to be one myself, I wanted to bike the Silk Road as a practical extension of my thesis at Oxford: to study how borders make and break what is wild in the world, from mountain ranges to people's minds, and how science, or more specifically wilderness conservation, might bridge those divides. So there I was, rich in unemployable university degrees, poor in cash, with few possessions to my name beyond a tent, a bicycle, and s
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, bingo-2018, travel
I received an advance reader's copy fro a Goodreads giveaway.

You can't hep but admire the determination of Ms. Harris and her companion Mel to complete the bicycle journey along the Silk Road. This journey took over a year in conditions varying from freezing to scorching temperatures, and very little in the way of creature comforts along the way.

I really enjoyed her descriptions of the terrain, and the many of the historical references to the locations she travelled through, especially in the
MJ Beauchamp
I had been craving a good travel memoir for some time now - Kate Harris' Lands of Lost Borders not only hit the spot, it completely exceeded my expectations...

Packed with historical, geographic and scientific facts, literary references and philosophical wisdom, this book is an impressive debut and well deserving the recognition. Harris' passion, curiosity, and love for mountainous landscapes and vast spaces are contagious. Though I've never felt particularly drawn to Central Asia as a travel de
Apr 29, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, giveaway
Reading can be such a wonderful conduit for 'travel'. Good literature transports its readers in time and space, widening perspectives and broadening horizons.

Travel literature is the antithesis to 'travelling through reading'.

People who write books (or even worse - blogs) on their travels are often suffering from two conditions that go hand in hand: inflated sense of self, and a condescending (cough, ORIENTALIST, cough) view of the rest of the world. I so wanted Kate Harris to prove my ideas a
Disclaimer: I did not receive a free copy of Land of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road; I paid full price for it at the bookstore and I am so glad that I did. Kate Harris really is a wonderful writer and even more than that she is a wonderful thinker. Her ability to make connections between her lived and inner experiences and the wider, wilder, world are what make this book fulfilling. There are so many books out there about journeys alone the Silk Road that it would seem as though one mo ...more
Jacob Overmark
I let myself lure into this ... "on the Silk Road" fueled my curiosity and made me think of past travels of my own.

But, while I do share the wanderlust and some of the restlessness of the author, we would never have gotten along as travel companions.

I admire the determination and the achievement, it really does take a special kind of guts to bike from Istanbul to India, the sharing of the experience just doesn´t satisfy my curious mind.

Thinking of the parts of the Silk Road I have travelled, th
The mystique of the Silk Road (a name given by Westerners to the trade routes across Central Asia) has long fascinated me for its rich history and the way the route crosses cultures, religions, and environments, so I had really hoped for more depth on those aspects of this area of the world. While Harris does address some of these things, I had the feeling that maybe she hadn't done quite as much research into the area before traveling or really prepared herself for encountering the people there ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fave-memoirs
I won an advanced copy of Lands of Lost Borders from the publisher and it arrived just as I got sick with the first bad cold of the winter. I was so excited to delve right in to this delicious read and escape my misery! This book is part memoir, part adventure travel guide, part history lesson and part science fiction (at least for me). Harris had always dreamed of traveling to Mars but found herself instead cycling from Istanbul, Turkey to Leh, India.. roughly 10,000 km in 1o months. For me, he ...more
Ron S
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From small town Ontario, Kate Harris went on to study at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and earned science degrees from UNC and MIT. The passion driving her was space exploration but once she ended up in a lab she took off to explore the Silk Road by bicycle and reinvented herself as a nature and travel writer. Her writing style, powers of observation and academic background, along with her thirst for exploration, are such that this memoir deserves to sit with authors like Rory Stewart, Pico Iyor a ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road is a delightful memoir by author Kate Harris. Inspired as a child when she found an illustrated and abridged book, belonging to her mother, and highlighting Marco Polo's travels on the Silk Road. Combine that with an adventurous spirit and the dream of one day, pursuing science and perhaps going to Mars, Harris talks a childhood friend, Mel, in accompanying her cycling the fabled and historic Silk Road. What follows is an exciting adventure and a ...more
This book was phenomenal. Filled with imagery that transports you across continents and historical knowledge that flings you through time, Harris' delightful – if saddle sore – journey through Asia's ancient Silk Road will make you swear to take your own trip. And swear off it on the next page. Freezing weather, rain, snow, terrifying traffic, washboard roads (when there were roads at all), an eternity of living on instant noodles, instant coffee, and instant oatmeal. Harris manages to communica ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
After reading the 4-page prologue I wanted to cancel all of my plans and just keep on reading. After reading 10 more pages I wanted Kate Harris to be my new best friend. Kate and her friend Mel (Melissa) spent almost a year cycling along Marco Polo’s Silk Road from Istanbul to the Himalayas. They didn’t know anyone, didn’t know the languages, and had barely useful maps. They were up for adventure, and adventure is what they got. They snuck past border guards; rode through searing heat, snow, and ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, asia, travel
I've traveled a few times along the Silk Road. Ok, I did it from the comfort and safety of my favorite reading chair, but I've tagged along vicariously. This trip perhaps wasn't my favorite, although I did enjoy a lot of it, and I think Harris is a good writer. A little too much memoir for my taste, and maybe I would have liked a little more visual description, but she wrote it the way she wanted to. I certainly couldn't have achieved this tip, by bicycle or any other means of transportation, I ...more
Wendy Cosin
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Finished this book the same week that bicyclists were murdered in Tajikistan. I can only imagine how horrified and sad this must have made the author.

I don't know why it took me so long to read Lands of Lost Borders. My unfamiliarity with the area made it more slow-going, as did the lack of maps (and my laziness not looking up the countries or looking for more resources that the author has available). That said, it is very very good and I hope to read it again in the future after I lend it to my
As a child, Kate Harris wanted to be an explorer, to discover parts of the world that had not been seen by any human. It was as a teenage though that she realised that this dream was almost impossible as almost everywhere had been mapped and explored. As our planet had been so extensively explored, she decided to become a scientist and follow her dreams and explore Mars.

The appeal of seeing some of this planet first grew on her after trips to Italy and hearing the Dali Lama talk. Reading about t
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
1.5 stars

At my last book club meeting, when we were trying to decide on our next read, I was fully behind this story. The blurb sounded interesting and I was hoping for a story that would speak to me, the way Cheryl Strayed’s Wild inspired me to want to do more. I’m not at all pleased to admit that I had to force myself to finish this book. I did not enjoy but a few bits and pieces.

Kate Harris’ tale started strong; I was very optimistic after just the first chapter. Things quickly went downhill
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by: Goodreads Giveaways
In “Lands of Lost Borders”which I won through Goodreads Giveaways Kate Harris combines travel, history and literature in her remembrance of a cycling adventure that took her along the fabled Silk Road. It begins with a young girl in an Ontario town who dreamt of exploration and decided that instead of following in the footsteps of adventurers like Marco Polo and Magellan would become a scientist and tackle space exploration, settling for a shot at being one of the first colonists on Mars.

Like a
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly my favourite travel memoir I've ever read - it almost feels offensive to even classify this as travel lit, because there is so much more to that. Kate is an incredible writer and she seamlessly weaves excerpts from prolific explorers, scientists, and writers, bits of history and present-day context, and past personal experiences into the narrative of her epic bike journey. I was thrilled to read about the mishaps along the road from hiding in ditches to pretending to be married, b ...more
A gorgeous meditation on borders, travel, belonging, and wildness. Blending history and literature with adventure and reflection, Lands of Lost Borders is at once pensive and poetic, goofy and charming.
This book will go down as one of the best books I have read, of all times.
Through her words, Harris took me along with her on the Silk Road, sneaking into the Tibet, going through the bureaucratic processes in the 'stan' countries, riding in the high lands and the steppes - and through this amazing journey I took from my couch, Harris gave me enough backstories about a few real world problems and how they are affecting us.

Though I will never have the stamina, ability and willpower to undertake
I've been struggling with what to say about this book for days. Can Harris turn phrases that make me wish I'd thought of them first? Certainly. Lines like "I don't just appreciate huge, head-clearing horizons; I need them like a crutch, the sort of hard contours I can grab onto and heave myself up with to behold the vastness out of which we came and to which we all return" feel like something I'd have jotted down on my bike journeys. Harris can clearly write, when she isn't getting in her own wa ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't tolerate the pretentiousness of the writer.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-edelweiss
"Be present, utterly present. This world deserves your deepest attention... Wake up. Keep your eyes focused on what's bigger than than the sadness directly in front of you..."

I'm a great believer in the idea that travel changes a person and I've always loved books (non-fiction or fiction) about long journeys. Not everyone can be fortunate enough to go on life changing expeditions, but armchair travel via a book like this one can still provide plenty of insights. In Lands of Lost Borders Canadian
Dana Stabenow
An overland journey into the soul, or at least I believe that was Harris' ambition.

But I wish she had spent more time talking about borders and their differences in kind and effect. There are literal borders, like rivers and mountain ranges that establish separation not just of people but of ecosystems and even weather (the rain shadow of a mountain range, for example). Language is a border, distinct, divisive, and developed by isolation and by deliberation (the Academie Francaise, thirty profes
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I rate books, I try to stick with a bell shaped curve so most of the books I enjoy I give a 3 star. I rarely give a 1 or 5 star and every month or so I give a 2 or 4.

I generally try to only read books that have an average rating of 4 star or higher because it helps me weed out the bad or boring books. This book is fairly new and I think I read about it in a popular women’s magazine which is usually code for some publisher really pushing it so as I am writing this review it still has over a
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting, funny, informative book. I really enjoyed reading about the authors many journeys; such an exciting life!
Kerri Anne
One-sentence review if you're not into novella reviews, which is more my steady jam: One of the best writers I've stumbled into in recent memory, but exceptionally difficult in places to read past the author's inherent white privilege.

I have many thoughts about this strange beauty of a book. A list, then!

1. First, it's the first book I've stumbled into in a long time where the writing is simply stunning. In places, it's absolutely perfect: visual and clever in all the right places. But there a
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
Thank you to Kate Harris and the publisher for sending me a copy of Lands of Lost Borders:Out of Bounds on the Silk Road. I haven't finish it, but she is such a good writer I had to leave a preemptive 5 star review.
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Kate Harris is a writer with a knack for getting lost. Named one of Canada’s top modern-day explorers, she has earned several accolades for her nature and travel 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.

Articles featuring this book

If we need a paperweight, we're grabbing a hardcover. Otherwise, we're big fans of paperbacks. They're the lighter, less expensive option—the...
57 likes · 19 comments
“Every time I got on my bicycle after a long hiatus it was like riding back to myself, the only way there. The dissipation of life in the city—days of to-do lists, errands, emails, small talk with strangers—generated static in my mind that I didn’t notice was there until I started pedalling and realized it was gone, the way you don’t hear the hum of a refrigerator until it stops. Such is the paradoxical freedom of cycling the Silk Road. In restricting the range of directions you can travel, in charging ordinary movement with momentum, a bike trip offers that rarest, most elusive of things in our frenetic world: clarity of purpose. Your sole responsibility on Earth, as long as your legs last each day, is to breathe, pedal, breathe—and look around.” 5 likes
“I’m not sure where I go when I spin wheels for hours on end like that, except into the rapture of doing nothing deeply—although ‘nothing,’ in this case, involves a tantrum of pedal strokes on a burdened bicycle along a euphemism for a highway through the Himalaya.” 4 likes
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