For most actors reading acting books can really be tedious and awful but reading great acting books can be beneficial for actors.
In this post, I’m going to share some of the best acting books with the hope that they will lead you to your great desire to be a great actor!
All of these acting books not only have practical acting tools and techniques but they’re also super inspiring reads.
As someone who struggles to read books, I genuinely believe you’ll enjoy all of these.
1. Uta Hagen – Respect for Acting
In this book, the author outlines how actors can find absolute specificity and bring their performances to Life by asking the right questions. Questions like the who,what, where, when, and why of the scene.
The book is short it’s clear and it’s full of so many insights on every aspect of the actors’ process.
2. Michael Shurtleff – Audition
This is essentially like practical advice for actors who want to know exactly what to do at an audition. Shurtleff, a casting director who worked on both movies and plays, gives an astounding amount of detail and this leads to some precise accounts of everyday behavior which can be useful to non-actors as well.
In this book you’re going to find four sections of the book:
Basic, practical advice on the technicalities of the audition.
The twelve guideposts for actors to guide their emotions (including case studies).
Things actors need to know.
General observations from working in theater.
3. John Barton – Playing Shakespeare
This is quite a niche acting book. It focuses specifically on Shakespeare. It also accompanies an incredible educational TV series of the same name.
Basically, John Barton is the boss he is like the “GOAT” when it comes to Shakespeare and this book and the TV series are just full of absolute Shakespearean gold.
It is obviously super helpful for Shakespearean acting and auditioning but the principles are really applicable to all areas of acting for me.
4. Ivana Chubbuck – The Power of the Actor
In this book, Chubbuck outlines a super clear 12-step acting technique covering literally every aspect of the acting process and she does this better than pretty much anyone.
It’s a great practical book with super clear insights into some of the most important acting tools such as objectives in monologue, beats & actions with even a section on how to act drunk.
The author is very well known for her work on substitution and this is a really big focus of her teaching. She places a huge emphasis on the idea of playing to win. This is the concept of always being the hero or the heroine of the story that you’re in: fighting for what you want and making your work important.
5. Stella Adler – The Art of Acting
Most actors would find this book really inspiring. Stella’s personality leaps off the page and since the book is set in an acting class the author is so present that you literally feel she might actually call your name out in the class.
There are tons of lessons tips and tools in this book but the key takeaway from this book is size; The encourages actors to be so much more, to be proud of being actors, and to be curious.
6. Bryan Cranston – A Life in Parts
Many of you will recognize the author from the movie “Breaking Bad.” This is an awesome book as it not only has an engaging story but also quite a number of key acting takeaways.
Reading acting biographies is a great thing to do but normally most of them just focus on the story of the actor, in this book, Bryan is clearly eager to pass on his knowledge and offer some practical acting advice as well.
7. Konstantin Stanislavski – An Actor Prepares
This book covers it all in a very fundamental way. It goes over things like concentration, focus, and relaxation. Depending on the role you’re going to play as an actor, these are skills that you need to have.
The author also teaches how to use the sense of memory and tune them to really listen to your partner when acting.
8. Sanford Meisner – On Acting Books
In this book, you’re going to find great exercises for playing your want, raising the stakes, and active listening.
The rule of thumb here is to go through the book, try them out with some friends, or get some partners to practice what’s in the book with them.
These exercises will really help you achieve what Meisner calls the epitome of great acting which is to behave truthfully in imaginary circumstances.
9. A Practical Handbook for the Actor
This book is written by students of William H Macy and David Mamet who studied with them at the Atlantic Theatre Company.
In this book, they talk about fundamental ideas like concentration and working with other actors. It is also great as it talks a lot about professionalism – showing up doing what you’re supposed to do and not bringing a lot of ego and baggage to the process.
10. Michael Chekhov – On the Technique of Acting
What I love about this book is several things; first, the way the author talks a lot about imagination. He gets very technical and talks about things like psychological gestures – the idea that anything that you do on the outside is reflecting what’s going on inside your mental state, your wants,your secrets,and your tensions.
He states that if you can get those in sync through a precise gesture you’re really going to be on your way to becoming a great actor.
If you liked this post on acting books please be sure to check my other articles on filmmaking!