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On Books, With Haresh Sharma

Need a good book to read this weekend? Read on for suggestions from Haresh Sharma, Resident Playwright at local theatre company The Necessary Stage.

Sharma has published two plays with Epigram Books: Those Who Can’t, Teach and Model Citizens.

What was your favourite book growing up?

I mostly read books from my primary school library and the second-hand bookshops, such as The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Five Find-Outers. But my favourite was the Amar Chitra Katha Indian stories for children [written in English]. I loved reading the fables, folktales and epics from Panchatantra and the Ramayana.

What books are currently on your ‘to-read’ list?

Fear of Writing by Tan Tarn How
Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw
Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

Who are your top five authors?

This is a random selection: EM Forster, Haruki Murakami, Jhumpa Lahiri. As a playwright, I also admire the works of Caryl Churchill. For Singapore writers, I would say Arthur Yap and Alfian Sa’at.

Have you ever faked reading a book? If so, which one(s)?

Unfortunately, I had to fake-read in university. There were too many books and too little time. When I discovered theatre, literature took a bit of a back seat.

Have you ever bought a book just because you thought the cover was beautiful? If so, which one?


If you could pick just one book to recommend, which book would it be?

These are my favourites which I read in the last year or so:

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Room by Emma Donoghue

Is there a book that changed your life? If so, which one?

There isn’t one specific book that changed my life. But when I was introduced to modern English literature back in school, I was heavily inspired, both by the writing and the writers’ world-views. The writings of Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, TS Eliot, EM Forster among others, sealed my love for literature and yes, changed my life.

What is your favourite line from a book?

I don’t recall lines from books––except the quotes I had to memorise as a literature student!

What book would you want to read again for the first time?

There isn’t any book I want to read again for the first time. But there are books I DO want to read for the first time, especially great classics which I’ve missed out on––writers like Tolstoy and Nabokov, CS Lewis and Tolkien, and Lorca and Marquez.

What book or book character would you want to be real?


Also check out our previous instalments in this series, with Robert Yeo and Ovidia Yu. Happy reading!

From Stage to Print, With Haresh Sharma and Tan Tarn How

“The political drama that unfolded in real life in Singapore last year was perfect fodder for the political drama of the stage”
The Straits Times

Epigram Books presents the latest additions to our Stage to Print series: Model Citizens by Haresh Sharma and Fear of Writing by Tan Tarn How.

Both plays, written amidst a climate of increased political awareness, inspired impassioned thought and discussion upon their respective releases.

Model Citizens delves into the lives of the people affected when a man stabs an Member of Parliament at a Meet The People’s Session. Exploring the state of Singaporean social order through a cast of highly relatable characters, Haresh Sharma delivers a work both intellectually stimulating and deeply humane.

Fear of Writing is a groundbreaking commentary on the political climate of Singapore today. Tan Tarn How, Singapore’s quintessential political playwright, marks his return to the scene after a decade of inactivity with a monumental play that confronts the purpose of art and censorship in Singapore, and questions whether Singaporeans have become indifferent to the injustice around them.

The books continue to pose questions as of yet unanswered by Singapore’s shifting political scene and remain representative of the tumultuous period.

Model Citizens won Best Director and Best Actress at the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2011. Fear of Writing was nominated for Best Original Script, Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2012.

Model Citizens and Fear of Writing will be launched at The Arts House on Friday, 18th May at 7.30pm. Both Haresh Sharma and Tan Tarn How will be attending to discuss their respective inspirations and motivations behind their works. Additionally, cast members from both plays will be staging a reading during the event.

Be sure to make a date with these prolific playwrights and delve into their creative processes writing these bold, winning plays.


Epigram Books Christmas Gift Guide

Do you need fresh gift ideas? Would you like your dollars to support local industry? Like to read, but don’t have an iPad?

Well, you’ve come to the right blog. Take a look at these hand-picked recommendations for you and everyone on your list.


 Six Plays

by Tan Tarn How

Tan won critical acclaim this year with his censorship-themed play Fear of Writing. Theatre buffs and culture watchers will appreciate Six Plays, a collection of his earlier works, which also push boundaries in topics such as sex, life and politics.

The Fish Book

by Ernest Goh

The Fish Book is an collection of art photography focusing on the miniature world of ornamental fish. Warning: these charming close-up portraits may trigger a run to your local aquarium shop.


Archibald and the Blue Blood Conspiracy

by SherMay Loh

A thrilling tale about a bumbling son of a duke who gets embroiled in a sinister conspiracy. SherMay Loh keeps pages turning with endless wit and a fast-moving plot. This novel for young adults picked up a Bronze Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and a nomination for Popular Readers’ Choice in 2011.


The Diary of Amos Lee 3: I’m Twelve, I’m Tough, I Tweet

by Adeline Foo

The latest volume in this bestselling series brings more laughs and tween angst as Amos takes part in his school’s talent contest. Catch up on the Amos Lee saga before the TV series airs on okto next year! This book won third place in the Children category of the Popular Readers’ Choice Awards 2011.



The Scholar and the Dragon

by Stella Kon

Stella Kon may be most famous for a certain play starring Ivan Heng as a Nonya matriarch, but did you know she brought her dramatic talents to prose too? This historical novel brings you to Singapore of the 1910s, where overseas Chinese fought the revolution to bring down the Qing dynasty. This book is part of the Singapore Classics series, which reprints formerly out of print novels by pioneering local writers.


by Robert Goh

The real-life adventure story of how a Singaporean team climbed a Himalayan mountain without fixed ropes or the aid of sherpas. Written by Robert Goh, the leader of the expedition, this account sheds light on the many uncertainties of unguided expeditions to Himalayan big mountains and how they were overcome. “If you’re sure you can do it,” Goh often says, “where’s the challenge?”



The End of Char Kway Teow and Other Hawker Mysteries

by Dr Leslie Tay

Featuring mouthwatering photos of dishes from rojak to wanton mee, and stuffed with entertaining facts and fictions about hawker food in Singapore, this is a foodie guide like no other. Use this insider’s guide to clue in your friends and family about the best hawker stalls in Singapore.

Madam Krishnan’s South Indian Recipes

by Ambrose Krishnan

Indian food fans will be enthralled by this collection of over 120 treasured family recipes from Pondicherry and Kerala. Recipes include those for Chutneys & Thovials, Rice, Seafood, Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, Snacks & Desserts, and Home Remedies.


If none of your prospective giftees fit into the previous categories, we’re sure you’ll find an suitable design in our new series of NOTBOOKS. Take the NOTBOOK that reads “I AM NOT BOSSY. I AM TAKING CHARGE”, for instance. How many people does that remind you of?
Where to shop: all the books can be found in major bookstores, and NOTBOOKS can be ordered directly from Epigram Books and purchased at selected retailers.

Follow the Playwright's Process

In two weeks, Epigram Books and Books Actually will host an intimate session in which Chong Tze Chien, Tan Tarn How and Ovidia Yu will speak about their craft and playwrighting journeys.

When we were deciding what the theme for this event should be, Dr Robin Loon, our distinguished moderator, pointed out how rare it is to have three luminary playwrights get together for a literary evening. He therefore suggested the title of “The Playwrights’ Progress” and said he wanted to focus on the playwrights themselves, their journey, their insights, and their stories.

All are welcome to join this singular event; theatre buffs, aspiring writers, students, teachers, academics, young and old.

Date: Friday, 4th November 2011
Time: 7pm (Book sale from 7pm, talk from 7:30pm)
Venue: Books Actually, 9 Yong Siak Street Singapore 168695

Read more about the books in the Playwright Omnibus series: