Some actors are born to act. They recite their lines and live out their character as if it is the natural thing to do. They are “prodigies,” or so most people call them. On the other hand, there are also people who like to work on their technique by diving into literature.
Regardless if you are a natural or use hard work as your drive, you can never be too prepared. Your abilities can always be nurtured beyond their current state – and the best way to do that is if you learn from experts. Here are the best acting books that every actor should have on their shelf.
William Esper and Damon DiMarco, “The Actor’s Art and Craft”
This is probably the best book there is on acting at the time. In this book, Esper dives into the Meisner Technique, introduced by Sanford Meisner. The book in itself is very detailed, offering concrete, clear, step-by-step instruction into how to really become a great actor.
Damon DiMarco, a contributing writer to this book, also does his best to describe all acting techniques presented by Esper. These exercises and techniques have been tested during 1st year period – and the results were spectacular. Once you start reading this book, the chances are that you won’t want to put it down – unless you want to try out those techniques yourself.
Constantin Stanislavski, “An Actor Prepares”
This is considered an “oldie, but goldie” by many actors – beginners or not. This book follows the experience of an acting group as they are being taught acting methods by their teacher. One can say it’s fiction – but in truth, it’s actually an in-depth presentation of the acting theory.
Upon reading the book, you will notice that it contains a variety of things – from examples to techniques and exercises that are meant to tickle your creative bone. Many great actors of this world have been directly influenced by the teachings brought by An Actor Prepares.
Stella Adler, “The Art of Acting”
Considering that Stella Adler is one of the very few actresses to work with Stanislavski himself, this is one book that you definitely need to own as an actor. The book was actually compiled and edited by Howard Kissel, who worked closely with Adler in order to bring you every piece of information. It’s a book on acting theory – but with a lot of practical examples included.
This book literally teaches you how to be an actor. It compiles several transcriptions, tapes, notes, and other sources – and in the end, reconstructing an acting course which was sectioned into 22 lessons. If you’re just learning how to act, this book will provide the main info.
S. Loraine Hull, “Strasberg’s Method”
If you are looking for one of the best acting books that dive straight into methods of acting out your character, then you might want to give Strasberg’s Method a shot. This book lays out everything that Lee Strasberg has to teach, and in a manner that can be understood by anyone. The exercises are very easy to understand and would be a great benefit for those who did not get to learn under the man himself.
This book is considered by many to be the Bible of Method Acting since everything you might want to know is described in detail within the lines. Once you read this book, it’s less likely you’ll need any other book on the subject.
Michael Chekhov, “To the Actor”
Michael Chekhov is another Russian writer, as well as an actor, that has done a lot of homework on the subject. In his book, To the Actor, he talks about the emotions of an actor, as well as his ability to be aware in space – regardless if it’s real or acted.
He also talks about the most efficient methods to develop your character, while also bringing forth some exercises to help you learn. This book is considered to be a building block for anyone wishing to achieve greatness as a writer.
Michael Shurtleff, “Audition”
Before you start acting out a role for a play or a movie, you first need to audition for it. This book tackles the art of audition – but seen from the perspective of a casting director.
The book itself is written in a simple manner and was made to be informative. It features a 12-step guide that has corresponding questions meant to help actors get ready for auditions – as well as callbacks.
Every acting technique presented here is special – some of the favorites including “finding humor and love,” “playing opposites,” and “the moment before.”
Larry Moss, “The Intent to Live
If you saw this book randomly on a shelf, you probably wouldn’t realize that it is actually one of the best books on filmmaking. However, as Moss explains, this book is called this way because they don’t look like they are acting; they simply look like they are living.
He may be a fairly young teacher, but Moss instructed a fair number of students – some of them being great names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Hillary Swank, and Justin Timberlake. He is the Meisner and Stanislavski of modern times – and every modern actor should have this book on their shelf.
In this book, Larry Moss stresses on a variety of things. The most recurring ones are script work and preparation – which is why his writing offers insight into how to tackle a difficult role or how to develop your characters.
There are many actors reading books on acting out in the world – as they should. No matter how good you may be, you should always strive for better. Even if you are a prodigy, acting can only be learned through education – and if you strive to achieve greatness, literature should always be the first place to start.
Hopefully, our suggestions for books about acting will be of good use to you. Read them all – and then try out the techniques on the scene.