"Think the next Educated or Wild. Palmer’s memoir of beating the odds to become a horse champion is an inspiring saga of perseverance—and a classic underdog tale."
Entertainment Weekly, 1 of the 15 Most Anticipated Books of the Year

Named a Best Book of Spring by Wall Street Journal Magazine, Esquire, Elle, Southern Living, and Buzzfeed

The Official BuzzFeed Book Club Selection for June 2019

Rough Magic, a memoir
by Lara Prior‑Palmer

Lara Prior-Palmer on Horseback

At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race”—an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.

Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that re-creates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their jeeps.

Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.


  • ""An inspirational tale of struggle—dehydration, injury and isolation—ultimately overcome through grit and sheer willpower." "
    ‑ —Thomas Gebremedhin, Wall Street Journal Magazine, 1 of the 12 Best Books of Spring
  • ""Forthright and exhilarating . . . A frank and delightful blend of extreme sports and travel writing." "
    ‑ —Erin Keane, Salon
  • ""Taking off on a horse into the Mongolian Steppe sounds like the bracing inverse to an overpopulated, busy urban life, but having the skills and grit to pull it off is another thing entirely. Lara Prior-Palmer attempted the Mongol Derby not really knowing what she was getting into; she ended it knowing much more about herself, and a race champion besides.""
    ‑ —Estelle Tang, Elle, 1 of the 25 Best Books to Read This Spring
  • ""A gripping, self-searching, triumphant debut memoir . . . The winning vulnerability on display . . . throughout this exceptional coming-of-age tale keeps the pages turning and the reader rooting for this unlikely heroine . . . A breathtaking ride." "
    ‑ —Kathleen Rooney, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • "If you like your memoirs to revolve around singular experiences, Lara Prior-Palmer’s Rough Magic delivers." "
    ‑ John Williams, The New York Times
  • "Excellent prose and rigorous honesty . . . An unusual pleasure to read . . . Prior-Palmer writes with a dash and boldness few writers possess."
    ‑ Lily Meyer, NPR

About the Author

LARA PRIOR-PALMER was born in London in 1994. She studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1,000-kilometer Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race, and became the first woman to win the race, and the youngest person ever to finish. Rough Magic is her first book.


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