Acting is a noble pursuit, with the role of an actor or actress to communicate a role and, thus, educate. Whether that is a film, a play or even an opera. In this article, we’re going to cover some of the best acting books on there. I’m often asked what are the best books on acting, so I thought an article with some of my recommendations would be helpful.
Are you starting out as an actor? We have you covered in these recommendations. Amateur groups are a good entry point to this profession for hobbyist and those starting out. And that aspect is covered in detail in a couple of the books featured here.
After all, it’s all experience, even reading Hamlet or any Shakespeare, classic novel or screenplay to put yourself in the role the character, empathising and experiencing a new world, if only for a short time. Great practice.
Here, we’ll cover some tips and look at common acting literature and guides available and see what ways are best to improve your acting skill. Maybe you’ll go from thinking and postulating to joining a club. Or maybe even rehearsing a play or just acting for fun! And why not?
To play is to learn and understand life, the dance or whatever you call human spontaneity!
Best Acting Books – A Guide to the Best Books on Acting
Here is a selection of books which offer tips and advice for actors of all levels. Pick the ones that most resonate with you and this is usually the most enjoyable and creatively rewarding.
Be kind to yourself. Not everybody picks right first time and if you don’t simply put it into your local charity or second-hand bookshop, as a nice find for another person.
The Golden Rules of Acting is a classic resource read by many. Andy Nyman is an experienced TV and film actor, so has a lot of wisdom to tell the hungry young actor.
As a young man he has memories of the cinema screening of Jaws, with Roy Scheider. He has a “aha” moment, suddenly realising film wasn’t a fantasy and he could do this.
Realising this dream, he went on to have a successful acting career in TV shows like the UK’s The Bill, The League of Gentlemen, Kick Ass 2 and Peaky Blinders! He’s has also co-written and starred in a Broadway play called Ghost Stories and worked with Darren Brown, obtaining an Olivier Award.
This is strong fatherly talk from a man who has taken the path and on conceptualising his wisdom and motivation, giving his fellow actor inner strength and a steely determination.
Forever an optimist, Mr Nyman wants people (actors and non-actors, alike) to shed the blues and feel the “Good news.” Sounds like a man who really enjoys his job and life, so good for him.
Tips about overcoming adversity and clever finances are shared here. Also, tales of the global acting market, which once you find your feet could be really enriching.
Read this story of experiences from Andy Nyman and rest assured you will be a little wiser and stronger from a professional’s knowledge.
Down to earth and recommended!
The absolute seminal text on acting by one of the foremost acting teachers of all time. This book by Stanislavski is one of a number he wrote on his method and process in acting.
Hugely influential, Stanislavski’s principles are taught in acting schools all over the world. Even if the technique in a class isn’t named as one of Stanislavski’s, it’s quite possible it’s one of Stanislavski’s as his method has been around for so long.
Written as a kind of seminar, the book follows a number of students as they learn the principles that Stanislavski teaches.
Hugely influential in the acting industry, there’s not one great actor out there who hasn’t learnt Stanislavski’s principles at one point in their career.
Definitely one of the top acting books out there. This is a must read!
- Theatre Arts Books
- Constantin Stanislavski
- Publisher: Routledge
- Edition no. 1 (04/30/1989)
- Paperback: 313 pages
This is described as an essential one stop shop (in book form) for developing actors. It provides great information you need to survive and thrive in the competitive world of acting.
Drawing the boundaries between acting as a role and the life skills you gain when developing the trade, this book is another lesson in common sense and self realization.
This book goes into good strategies like establishing yourself as a brand, dealing with agents and developing networking skills. Covering a lot more of the business and marketing side of acting compared to some of the other books here, this book is a useful manual which is part business and part motivational pep talk.
A good read for people levelling up and looking for paid work.
Like Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner is one of the most influential acting teachers of all time. Meisner is considered by many, especially in modern day terms, to be the best acting teacher ever, so this book is a must own.
Some people consider it a battle between Method Acting vs Meisner technique. But you can learn both. Meisner was a student of Method Acting and he was well versed in the method. However, his technique teaches a slightly different version of the Method where he decided to completely abandon the use of affective memory, a distinct characteristic of Method Acting. Meisner maintained an emphasis on “the reality of doing”, which was the foundation of his approach.
Certainly one of the best acting books you’ll read. Considered a bible for acting, and one of the greats on this list, this book is an absolute must read!
- Vintage Books
- Sanford Meisner, Dennis Longwell
- Publisher: Vintage
- Edition no. 1 (07/12/1987)
- Paperback: 272 pages
As the title suggests, the author certainly comes from a theatre background. However, all paths lead to Rome and whatever your preferred acting destination, this book will inspire and motivate when needed.
This book is a celebration of acting, from a producer’s viewpoint. Quite a lot of topics are covered, with advice and experience of the theatre, both enlightening and with cautionary tales included.
This truly is a roller coaster ride, from drama school to advice about the stereotypical actor / actress types and tells.
With thumbs up from people like Paul O’Grady and Michael Ball, you can understand why this guide packed with practical advice is another essential read for any serious acting person. Also available in Audiobook.
- Nick Hern Books
- West End Producer
- Publisher: Nick Hern Books
- Paperback: 224 pages
This is an acting student’s guide, to help future development. Cannon seeks to help with career decisions, a straightforward, no nonsense guide to the fundamental attitude of aspcts like producing a concrete performance.
Dee Cannon is an acting tutor, a member of the RADA for 17 years, this book has technical advice for anyone looking to improve their acting. Cannon gives classes internationally, so it’s easy to see why this is a no-brainer for soaking up more hard-won acting wisdom.
There is something even for the most experienced actor in the realistic professional techniques and modern methodology on the acting craft expressed in this book. This is a solid professional actor serious about putting a serious step forward.
Another high recommendation!
- Oberon Books
- Dee Cannon
- Publisher: Oberon Books
- Paperback: 254 pages
Another methodical guide for the realistic actor. The quality of resources here are very high, which is great. Drama students who want to improve can pick any of these recommendations and they will surely not be disappointed.
I like the way this book covers so many fundamentals. Like in most creative industries, years can pass and the same pillars of knowledge still bears truth. The fundamentals are the core value of growth in any ara..
Language and perseverance is stressed in this book, with no short cuts, but generous advice and no shortage of common sense.
Covering both TV and film examples, it’s difficult not to recommend this detailed acting guide by Timothy West.
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Timothy West, Prunella Scales
- Publisher: Nick Hern Books
- Paperback: 96 pages
Auditions, like interviews, deserve a dedicated book simply due to their complexity and the knowledge required to navigate them successfully. The Excellent Audition Guide is focused on drama students, but has something for everyone looking to improve their performance.
This book covers the audition process in detail, with tips and tricks adding a modern and fresh appeal to your casting calls. Andy Johnson has won a BAFTA and a Fringe Award, so you know he speaks from experience.
Lots of people tout this book as the only one you’ll need for auditions and recommend it for the confidence it inspires within its gem laden pages. Without a strong audition, your career will certainly struggle.
With great monologue help, this guide is an essential book for improving your acting.
- Andy Johnson
- Publisher: Nick Hern Books
- Paperback: 200 pages
Lots of people prefer biographies, where you can learn about an actor first hand. Their stories are often very interesting and packed with gleams of wisdom and common sense. Old actors also offer a valuable window into the past.
The accredited CBE actor, Michael Caine, has starred in everything from the classic Italian Job and the new version of Batman with Christian Bale. With a long career in Hollywood and a huge list of tour-de-force performances, you can pretty much guarantee Sir Michael Caine has experienced all acting has to offer.
Sir Michael covers a lot of advice in this book concerning amateur stage productions. As he point out, this can be the best platform for learning the trade, even if it’s just having laugh with your friends.
The man’s credits are very impressive and looking at one of his older films recently The Ipcress File, you fully realise the depth of his career and commitment to the art.
With a career as impressive as Sir Michael’s, this is essential reading for any actor. Highly recommended.
- Acting in Film (An Actor's Take on Movie Making) Applause Acting Series Series Softcover by Michael...
- A master actor who's appeared in an enormous number of films, starring with everyone from Nicholson...
- This new revised and expanded edition features great photos throughout, with chapters on:...
- Remarkable material
- Michael Caine
Here’s one that I haven’t read yet, but it’s at the top of my list of acting books to read.
I’m not an actor, but I am going to buy this one. The Breaking Bad series is an absolute classic, so this is a book to be enjoyed and a learning experience from a master all in one.
Learn straight the Actors Guild award winning actor Bryan Cranston and his story. Can’t say anymore really.
- Bryan Cranston
- Publisher: Scribner
- Edition no. 0 (08/08/2017)
- Paperback: 288 pages
It’s all about networking
Reading some of these guides and learning from others is great fun. Often, though, the best way to learn is to do. A local club or production is only a web search away. Call and ask if they currently have any classes starting, or if need any volunteer help. That could truly be your foot in the door moment. What do you have to lose?
The next opportunity could be around the corner, but you have to be willing. Books and guides will only take you so far.
And that’s not even covering the characters you meet who are out there acting and treading the boards. These people have stories to tell and wisdom aplenty to share!
I’m not trying to undersell a book, but when can it have a merry giggle? People, people, people!
Local productions and DVD
Continuing on the real-world participation theme, what’s on at your local theatre? To know what a good actor is, you must first enjoy a play. If it’s with people who you can discuss the play with afterwards, even better. To truly get into the nitty gritty of projection of voice and encompassing body language, even method, is a wonderful thing!
The last production I saw was a version Swan Lake. It was popular and there was a very excited crowd that saw a team of exceptional dancers. It was so good that I came back to see The Nutcracker – brilliant and I feel very lucky to have been able to see this one live.
Even the fellow audience members you meet are interesting. An older couple was telling me about their recent trip to Italy, how they had seen some Italian opera, and all their life-changing experiences in that great country. Theatre truly is entertaining, from either side of the curtain!
Best Acting Books – Final thoughts
Anyone with stars in their eyes or just fond of a good read, the actor or actress of your choice’ biography is a must.
I chose Michael Caine and Bryan Cranston’s books here simply because they are successful, contemporary actors, but any of your professional favourites will do. The more passion you feel for them and their films, the better – trust me when I say, it will translate.
The books I mentioned here by Stanislavski and Meisner are classics and should be on any actors / actress’ bookshelf, with timeless advice that builds upon the fundamentals and gets your foundation as an actor in place.
In reality, combine any of these books, like Michael Caine did himself, with any local production experience and you are on the right path to improvement.
We hope you’ve found this guide to the best acting books helpful. Did we miss any of your favorites out? Let us know in the comments just below here.