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Audrée Archambault

Audrée’s literary treasure hunt

Books in the metro
Published on
April 26, 2018
First books in the street, now books in the metro. Maybe you’ve heard of the “Croque-Livres” book sharing boxes where young and old alike can pick up a book, free of charge, as they stroll along the sidewalk. Now there’s “Books in the Metro,” a sort of version 2.0 of this resident concept

As its name indicates, the initiative has taken place in Montréal’s metro (and on social media) since December 2016.

The original donor: Audrée Archambault, alias Elle M Bouquiner. Audrée is a literature student, blogger, “Booktuber” – a real influencer. She receives a huge number of books from publishers – too many both for her bookcase and for her minimalist spirit.

What could she do with them once she’d finished reading them? Audrée was inspired by a London initiative made popular by actress Emma Watson titled Books on the Underground, that spread to a dozen other cities around the world. She headed out to conquer Montréal’s metro armed with her books. 

Sceau officiel des Livres dans le métro

“I wanted to give them a second life,” she explained. “But most of all, I wanted to get people who don’t visit bookstores or the library interested in reading.”

And it worked! During one of her underground journeys, Audrée witnessed a telling scene. A very young woman, whose first language was not French, was hesitant to pick up a book that had just been placed in the box. “I won’t be able to read it,” she said to her boyfriend. He replied, “Yes, we will! We’ll read it all the way to the end!” They left with the book. We don’t know the end of the story, but it’s fun to think that they read many more after that one…

The buzz of discovery

Audrée often leaves novels in the box “which are written in French 95 % of the time.” But children’s books, personal development books and even cookbooks end up on the metro benches. Passersby discover them by changce or because they see Audrée’s Instagram posts (@livresdanslemetro).

A sticker on each book explains the process with childlike simplicity: you take the book home, read it and then take it back to the metro. Readers are also encouraged to share their reviews on Audrée’s feed. One person out of five shares a review of their book, she said.

Le livre Pivot de Marie-Ève Cotton

Audrée’s literary treasure hunt sometimes creates a buzz, as it did at the Journée mondiale des femmes. Hundreds of feminist novels from Emma Watson’s reading club, signed by the actress, were offered in subway stations around the world, including 50 stations in Montréal.

“The day I went to distribute them,” she recalled, “I didn’t even have to put them out – people were waiting for me on the platform to get a copy!”

Even the STM has joined the ranks of the program’s fans, sharing information on its network. This collaboration led to a video series with authors that was shot in the metro.  

Audrée’s next steps: Creating a team of “book fairies” to distribute books across the network. Audrée also intends to write her own police series for kids, “Sarah Lou: Very Private Detective.” The first book, “If He Bites You, You’re Dead!” was launched in February … and 25 free copies found takers in Montréal’s metro!