Summary and book reviews of Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders

A Journey on the Silk Road

by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris X
Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris
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  • Published:
    Aug 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis

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About this Book

Book Summary

A brilliant, fierce writer makes her debut with this enthralling travelogue and memoir of her journey by bicycle along the Silk Road—an illuminating and thought-provoking fusion of The Places in Between, Lab Girl, and Wild that dares us to challenge the limits we place on ourselves and the natural world.

As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she craved—to be an explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From what she could tell of the world from small-town Ontario, the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth; there was nothing left to be discovered. Looking beyond this planet, she decided to become a scientist and go to Mars.

In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris set off by bicycle down the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel. Pedaling mile upon mile in some of the remotest places on earth, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. The farther she traveled, the closer she came to a world as wild as she felt within.

Lands of Lost Borders is the chronicle of Harris's odyssey and an exploration of the importance of breaking the boundaries we set ourselves; an examination of the stories borders tell, and the restrictions they place on nature and humanity; and a meditation on the existential need to explore—the essential longing to discover what in the universe we are doing here.

Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer, Kate Harris offers a travel account at once exuberant and reflective, wry and rapturous. Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of the self that can never fully be mapped. Weaving adventure and philosophy with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders celebrates our connection as humans to the natural world, and ultimately to each other—a belonging that transcends any fences or stories that may divide us.

Excerpt
Lands of Lost Borders

Long before space flight, a pair of avid cyclists recognized the importance of the angle at which a wing meets the wind. Wilbur preferred long, languid rides on country roads while Orville loved racing, the faster the better. Th is blend of endurance and enthusiasm, and steadfastness and speed, enabled the Wright brothers from Ohio to soar where others had crashed, often fatally, including Otto Lilienthal. The doomed "father of gliding" permanently fell from the sky in 1896, but Orville and Wilbur took inspiration from his achievements and decided to fashion their own flying machines using tools and parts from the bicycle repair shop they ran in Dayton. To make the wings they used unbleached "Pride of the West" muslin, a tight-woven cotton cloth ("fine as linen, soft as silk!") more commonly deployed in women's undergarments. For the ribs of the wings they used lightweight ash wood, and for the frame, lumber from a giant spruce. They tested the angles...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Kate Harris makes a strong argument for human understanding that transcends the lines on a map. Lands of Lost Borders is notable for its lyrical prose, intellectual honesty, and courage to tackle complex questions without clear answers.   (Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Full Review Members Only (893 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Harris's talent is in her prose, as she offers breathtaking descriptions of the Silk Road, shrouded in mystery and wonder.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Exemplary travel writing: inspiring, moving, heartfelt, and often breathtaking.

Author Blurb Pico Iyer
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.

Author Blurb Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams, winner of the National Book Award
Kate Harris arrives among us like a meteor – a hurtling intelligence, inquiring into the nature of political borders and the meaning of crossing over. Her sheer determination to explore what she does not know compels you to travel happily alongside her in Lands of Lost Borders.

Author Blurb Colin Thubron, author of To a Mountain in Tibet and Shadow of the Silk Road
A hymn to the pure love of travel: a brave and astonishing journey.

Author Blurb Rachel Friedman, author of The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost
Kate Harris has an explorer's brave heart, a scholar's cataloging brain, and a writer's keen eye. She beautifully captures what it means to cross borders, both geographic and psychic, as one embarks on the grand adventure that is growing up.

Author Blurb Leigh Stein, author of Land of Enchantment
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.

Reader Reviews

Brenda S

Inspiration to get out and explore
The author writes with plenty of wit, which I think you need to possess when dealing with many of the hurdles that she and her friend encountered on their cycling journey along the Silk Road. One can only imagine the hindrances in obtaining tourist ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Georgia: Crossroads of History

Map of Georgia highlighting major cities and townsIn Lands of Lost Borders, author Kate Harris and her friend Melissa Yule bicycle through eastern and central Asia, stopping in the Eurasian nation of Georgia. Bordered by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, Georgia was a member of the Soviet Union until the latter's dissolution in 1991, at which time it regained its independence. The country has a population of 5 million and covers approximately 69,700 sq km (slightly larger than West Virginia). 20% of Georgia's territory—South Ossetia and Abkhazia—is still disputed and occupied by Russian military forces.

This is wild and rugged territory featuring natural biodiversity and a fascinating history. With major ports on the Black Sea, Georgia has been a hub of trade and ...

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