The art of hiding, and finding, books on the Metro

Inspired by Emma Watson, Audrée Archambault has been leaving books for people to read in Montreal's Metro stations. All she asks is that the subway riders return them when they're done.

Inspired by Emma Watson, Audrée Archambault leaves books of all kinds in the city's subway system

Audrée Archambault has been leaving free books in Montreal's Metro stations for the past eight months. All she asks is that their finders return them to the subway system once they're done. (Submitted by Audrée Archambault)

If you have found a book inside a Montreal Metro station lately, it's possible someone forgot it there.

But it's also possible Audrée Archambault left it there for you to find.

Archambault, a YouTuber and book lover, has been leaving dozens of books in the city's different Metro stations for the past eight months. 

Every book comes with a sticker explaining it's been left there on purpose and that its finder is welcome to bring it home and read it.

When the readers are done, Archambault hopes they will pay it forward by slipping the book back in a station for someone else to come across. 

"I dream of the day where I will be taking the subway and I will find a book that I didn't leave there before," she said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak

The idea came from the actor Emma Watson, famous for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies.

She started leaving books from her feminist book club "Our Shared Shelf" on the London Underground network in the fall.

For International Women's Day, Archambault received a package of books from publishers, each containing a handwritten note from Watson herself, to distribute in Montreal. One of the books was Maya Angelou's memoir Mom & Me & Mom

She carries a selection of books (sent to her by publishers because of her YouTube channel or from her own book shelf) in her backpack whenever she takes the Metro and leaves them on benches, stairwells, and other nooks she finds in the stations.

When riders become readers

Sometimes she waits and quietly watches subway riders negotiate with themselves. 

"It's so funny, because I find people are shy," Archambault said, laughing. "When they see the book, they sit down next to it and then they look at it, and they're not sure if they can take it. And then when no one's looking they take it."

She leaves books, mainly French-language books, of all kinds — "thrillers, kids books, cooking books, anything, really" — but finds novels are the most picked up. 

Once, she saw a woman pick up one up before noticing it was French and hesitated. But her boyfriend urged her to take it, saying they'd get through it together.

"They took the book and I was almost like crying," she said.

The city's transit agency, Société de transport de Montréal (STM), has partnered with her to create videos of her hiding books with their authors.

"It's a great initiative," STM spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay wrote in an email. "Taking public transit is a good place to read.… It's a pleasure to see the project is working well."

Archambault is inviting others to join her club and become book fairies through her Facebook page to help her drop more books in all of the city's stations.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak