City Insider Interview: Kriticos, The Book Club founder

In the heart of Amsterdam, where canals weave tales of their own, there exists a haven for bibliophiles – “The Book Club”, a book club for people who didn’t read the book.

Founded by the literary enthusiast and community catalyst, Kriticos, this book club transcends traditional notions, creating a dynamic space where readers connect, stories unfold, and the joy of reading is celebrated. We sat down with Kriticos to delve into the pages of his reading journey, uncovering his favorite books and the secret gems of Amsterdam where he unwinds with a good read.

Hi Kriticos, let's just jump right in. It's almost the end of the year! If 2023 was a book what would it be and why?

That's a tough one, because 2023 had different eras on its own.

I'd say for the beginning of the year, from January until March, it was All About Love by Bell Hooks, because I hosted multiple sessions on that book in many spots; schools and prison included.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is from March until July, because much like Phil Knight's pursuit of making Nike into a living breathing thing, there were so many ups and downs, and despite the company's high moments, I was going through my own personal low moments, but had to see it through despite the "noise".

From July until October I'd say it was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I was on a personal pursuit for purpose and rediscovery of who I am, where I want to be in life and how to get there. I became quite disillusioned with things, as well.

From October until now, I'd say that I'm at my 1984 by George Orwell. I feel like Winston, noticing all the different ways people navigate the systems in place and trying to find a balance of how to be a part of it, without getting lost in the sauce. The way Winston sort of saves himself from insanity by having a journal is something I relate strongly to, these days. I've been journaling quite a lot and it's keeping me sane.

This also marks your 100th book club session, from your first at The Cover to now, how would you describe the journey and the community you've built since then?

The first session I had at The Cover was March of 2022. That was a big turning point in the history of The Book Club, as well as in my life. I got connected with Netflix, after that session and it's almost like going from 2nd gear straight to 4th gear. It's been a rollercoaster, honestly. I'm still spiritually in the same space I was during that session. I still get nervous before book clubs and second guess things.

But since then, I've hosted sessions in Berlin, Germany, Helsinki, Finland and now Rotterdam. I've also gotten a partnership with Nike, hosted a private session for Cisco and HighSnobiety among other big brands. Curated 2 wonderful sessions at Van Gogh Museum, where I made The Book Club into performance art.

The journey, looking back, has been amazing. I was able to ride the wave quite gracefully. The communities I've built across the different cities still surprise me to this day. It's insane to realise that people are uniting in Berlin to discuss books that Ann and I, (my associate in Berlin) are hosting. I've received many messages from people saying they've made good friendships through the book club. Some people have become closer to their family thanks to conversations discussed at The Book Club. It’s crazy to imagine that my hunger for good conversation has gotten this far.

Just recently I realised that through The Book Club, we've gathered over 2000 people to discuss books and movies. That's over 1000 since this March, alone. That's insane to me.

It is quite overwhelming, but considering that this is just 1 year later, I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a long fruitful journey.

Can you highlight some standout books from 2023 that left a lasting impression and helped define the year?

Some standout books that I read are definitely The Creative Act by Rick Rubin - the inspiration and clarity that this book has given me is like no other book has done, especially in regards to navigating creativity.

Another one would be How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann - It's a really interesting take on fairy tales, where Adelmann reimagines the women in fairy tales and sets them in this sort of support group setting. This is an interesting insight on how modern day women may see the ‘fairy tale’ love story and if it's actually realistic as well as other problems that women deal with today. I'd highly recommend it!

Other than those 2, I didn't really get into books written in 2023..

Any upcoming books or authors are you most excited about?

There's one I'm excited about called Knife: Meditations after an Attempted Murder by Salman Rushdie. It's an actual reflection on his life following an attempted murder on him. The book cover struck me when I was in Waterstones and the story is even more intriguing.

There's the memoir The Road Is Good by Uzo Aduba dropping next year, as well. I really appreciate the way she thinks and this is a book about her mother's struggles and how they affected her as the daughter of a Nigerian woman in America.

Finally, it's a book called Better By Far by Hazel Hayes; I've read her previous book Out Of Love, I really like the way she writes. This book is apparently about finding oneself as an adult in today's age, especially in regards to ‘Love’ and ‘Identity’ and such. These are things I deal with a lot and I could use some insight.

Finally, a good friend of mine, Rudy Asibey is working on her next book and I'm excited for that one.

And lastly, what are 3 of your favourite reading spots around Amsterdam?

I like to read in places where people don't really read lol

Stacks’ Diner is really a fun place to read. For some reason, I always get to the restaurant before my dining partner, so I sit on the counter and read. Most times this ends up with me having a really good conversation with some of the staff. I've come to really love that restaurant and the people that work there.

Yusu is a cool place to read. I usually go there to say hi to my friends Kick, Jelle, Nicole and Sean, but they're mostly busy with all the clients they have. So when they're busy, I read my book and we have conversations in between chapters.

A cafe called Skina, owned and run by a friend of mine. It’s a really cosy spot with great energy and a really cool team. They don’t really have tables, so I like to sit on one of the stairs and read there or when it’s good weather I sit on a bench outside and half read, half people watch too.

I'd also like to plug my upcoming The Book Club XL on the 10th of December at De Nieuwe Liefde. It's a new concept I'm bringing to life.