The 10 Best Acting Books
As performers and artists, it’s so important to continue to study and expand your skill set. That’s why acting books are so great. With books, you can learn the material on your own time and at your own pace. Take what you need, leave the rest. To get you onto the acting book bandwagon, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites which are highly regarded throughout the industry.
The mother of all acting books! If you didn’t know that Stanislavski was the creator of ‘The Method’ and basically all modern acting techniques that spring from that, then this book is a great read. It can feel a bit dated in its explanation, especially depending on the translation you get, but it was revolutionary at the time of its 1936 publication. Stanislavski takes the reader through his system by following a group of actors as they learn and work with their teacher. The result is an in-depth theory that is still influential today.
Sanford Meisner is considered by many to be the greatest acting teacher ever. His technique is up there with ‘The Method’ as one of the most practiced techniques amongst actors. Regardless of what technique you prefer, this book offers amazing insights and exercises as well as the backstory to the famous quote “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”
The best thing about Hagen’s book is how simple, straightforward, and clear it is. She stresses the importance of doing your homework and her series of questions, such as “Who am I?” “What do I want?” and “What is my relationship?” are relevant for both Shakespearean monologues and one-liner auditions. Plus the advice she has for stage nerves, and her secret tip about how to yawn on cue are vital for every working actor. Later in life Uta disowned this book and wrote a new one with her new technique, both are insightful reads.
A classic that is recommended at most diploma programs and by acting teachers around the world. Larry Moss is one of the most highly-regarded acting teachers of our time and a contemporary master of acting instruction. His students include legends such as Hillary Swank and Leonardo DiCaprio. With his focus on the importance of script work, this book is a great read for newcomers and long-time professionals alike. “I call this book The Intent to Live because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living.” – Larry Moss
This book is blunt, to say the least. In fact, David Mamet would disagree with almost everything mentioned in the books above. He has some very strong opinions on acting, theatre, directing, and the industry as a whole. But these are formed from decades of amazing work. The kind of acting book that is full of unique ways to look at your process and the whole experience of movie making and theatre. His main theory: invent nothing, deny nothing.
The odd irony, or obstacle to some, is that in order to act you must first audition. This book is a classic you’ll find on most actors’ bookshelves, and not just because their teacher told them they have to read it. Full of tips and tools from auditions to rehearsals, his advice is especially great for the theatre.
Another great read which can help you change the stigmas around auditions. Guskin goes through famous scenes from plays and breaks down the text. He is a firm believer in discovering the limitations we place on ourselves, changing those, and opening up the mind to new possibilities. Glenn Close, among others, swears by his take on acting, especially his advice on how to be less fearful in the audition room.
A great read for any creative professional. This book lays the groundwork for personal and creative development. Each chapter is designed as a weekly course, including homework and all. The exercises, such as writing your own obituary, may seem a tad dramatic but you’ll be grateful you put the leg work in when you start to see the effects this book has on your daily outlook towards acting and life.
This is one of the newer books on the list. Acting coach to the stars, Ivana Chubbuck, has developed a syllabus that takes the theories of the masters, (Stanislavski, Meisner, Hagen) to the next level. She believes in utilizing inner pain and emotions, not for an end result in a scene, but rather as a way to win a goal. The book uses well-known scripts to exhibit how to precisely apply Chubbuck’s process. This is a powerful twelve-step process for the actor who is willing to go to the vulnerable place with their craft.
Who doesn’t love Michael Caine?! With over 160 acting credits to his name, we can all assume he knows a thing or two about the craft. If you prefer to learn from your peers, try this book. The language is comprehensive for actors and doesn’t get too heady. With chapters such as: Preparation, In Front of the Camera, The Take, Characters, Directors, etc, this can be a great read if you want to know more about the whole process of film. Plus when you’re reading it, you can imagine his voice is reciting it to you, and that’s always fun.
There’s no one way to act, audition, or live a creatively fulfilling life, but if you need some inspiration, perhaps a new outlook on your auditions, or even just a spring in your step, one of these books could be the answer.
Hope you enjoyed our suggestions. Comment below with your favourite industry books that you would recommend to others. 🙂