Kansas City Readers Series
The Kansas City Reader Series is an eight part interview series from Our Daily Nada. Every month we publish a portrait with leading Kansas City creatives, a selection of conversations with personalities from the worlds of art, food, journalism, music and business.
Our Rivermarket neighbors, Caitlin Corcoran and Howard Hanna are avid readers and owners of two of our favorite Kansas City food and drink establishments, The Rieger and ÇaVa.
ODN: We discovered the two of you were booklovers from your book posts on Instagram. What inspired you to post about the books you were reading?
Howard: I'm so busy with work and everything else that I wasn't reading nearly as much as I wanted to. I decided I would try to change that and I wanted something kind of official to keep motivated. I said in January 2017 that I was going to read at least 3 books a month all year. By posting about it on Instagram, I knew that I would be less likely to fall behind, and would feel some pressure to keep it up. I posted a photo every month of the three books I’d read, and it was a cool experience. I used the hashtags #3booksamonth and #36books. I've actually connected with some authors because of it, and also gotten comments from people who like the same books and have similar interests, and that's been cool.
Caitlin: Howard started that challenge really as a way to read more non-food books. He was better at keeping up with it than I was. Owning small businesses makes time for reading difficult, but I just try to take a few moments every day. I can’t wait until the streetcar goes to Westport so I can read on my commute!
ODN: What are you reading right now or just recently finished?
Howard: I just finished reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz, and it was beautiful and powerful. Right now I'm reading Massimo Bottura's book Bread is Gold, which I'm finding inspiring both professionally and personally.
Caitlin: I just finished Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis. The next few books I would like to read are: Champagne by Peter Liem, The Autobiography of Malcom X, and Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.
ODN: What books or authors are personal favorites?
Howard: Albert Wendt, and his book Sons for the Return Home really started the genre of the Pacific Novel and opened my eyes to a lot of issues facing immigrants like my mom, and bi-cultural kids like me. On my dad's side of the family, a book that's special to us and was passed on from generation to generation, is Kahlil Gibran's book The Prophet. When I was a teenager, reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley changed my worldview forever. As a chef, I'll always love Fernand Point's Ma Gastronomie. For pure entertainment, I'd go with Mario Puzo's The Godfather.
Caitlin: Night by Elie Wiesel, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, A People’s History of the United States of America by Howard Zinn, Matilda by Roald Dahl and Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti.
ODN: What famous author would you love to host for dinner/drinks?
Howard: If I could cook for any author I think I'd pick Albert Wendt, the first great Polynesian writer who is internationally respected, but also really important to me personally. In the sixties after Samoa's Independence, my parents worked briefly with him there, and remembered him as an angry, articulate young man, and a fiery radical who fought against the legacy of colonialism and the damage it inflicts on developing nations. When I got to meet him in 2001 he was more of an elder statesman, but he still got pretty intense giving me advice as I was about to move to New York to go to culinary school. He told me that I could become the first great Samoan chef, and that I should never stop learning, growing, traveling, and trying new things. In the book he signed for me that night, he wrote "Follow your dream. Never stop cooking. Become a great chef!" Yeah, it'd be pretty cool to cook for him at my restaurant. I hope he'd be proud.
Caitlin: I would love to host MFK Fisher to a dinner party at our apartment. The evening would start with with oysters on the half shell and champagne and finish at the wee hours of the morning with amaros and ice cream sundaes.
ODN: Could you ever see yourself writing a book?
Howard: Maybe someday. It would be about my life in food, and it would probably be called a phrase that I've been using for over a decade now in describing what I want to do - Beautiful Food For the People. Or something like that. I don't think I want to write a straight up cookbook, but I would maybe write a book about cooking.
Caitlin: Definitely! I've always loved the idea of writing a kids book about flavors, tasting, and food.
ODN: Any past bookstore experiences that have made an impression on you?
Howard: Most bookstores I've been impressed with have either been huge, like Powell Books in PDX, or they've been super focused, like Librairie Gormande in Paris, or some underground anarchist/punk rock book stores I've been to in Greenwich Village or the lower east side.
Caitlin: Growing up I was an avid reader, my parents instilled a love of books early on. Some of my favorite memories are going to The Reading Reptile (OG location in Westport) for their pizza party book clubs.
ODN: You are our neighbors in the Rivermarket! What do you hope to get out of a neighborhood bookstore?
Howard: I've never had a neighborhood bookstore before, and I'm excited to get that experience. I like to run into friends and neighbors and be able to say what's up, but for it also to be pretty quiet and chill, so it's comfortable to just hang out and have a drink. Personally, I love taking a book to the bar, but at a normal bar, I always think the guy sitting there reading looks kind of pretentious and douche-y, so I don't want to be that dude. To have a drink and a bite at Our Daily Nada while enjoying a good book, that sounds pretty great.
Caitlin: I'm a sucker for good periodicals especially ones involving food and beverages. I would love have a bookstore that stocked some of my favorite quarterly or monthly publications such as Cherry Bombe, Toothache, Glou-Glou, etc. I love a good used section too!
ODN: Thanks guys! And we are working on the periodicals Caitlin!