This is a list of the best acting books out there. Of course acting books are very subjective. Sometimes you can read one and get very little out of it, whilst someone else can read the same acting book and have their perspective of acting changed forever. The lesson – read them all!

But acting books are boring.

Actors sometimes struggle to summon the motivation to read acting booksas they tend not to be the most riveting of reads. However, I would recommend reading as many of these acting books as you can bear as they are all fantastic and very useful.

They each offer differing ideas and approaches to acting; some are practical and some more theoretical. You need to start building up your toolkit as an actor. Most actor’s create an acting process that draws from many different books and techniques.

If you are able to read a few of these acting books, your approach to acting will change drastically. As you have probably experienced with acting, sometimes one small insight can completely shift the way you act. So dive in.

Best Acting Books

In-Depth Acting (Dee Canon)

This is the very first book about acting I read. It is really insightful from a complete beginner and it’s a great reference book to re-visit every now and then. An essential guide to the Stanislavski technique, filtering out the complexities of the system and offering a dynamic, hands-on approach. In-Depth Acting provides a comprehensive understanding of character, preparation, text, subtext and objectives.

An Actor Prepares

Stanislavski’s simple exercises fire the imagination, and help readers not only discover their own conception of reality but how to reproduce it as well. So much mystery and veneration surrounds the writings of the great Russian teacher and director Stanislavski that perhaps the greatest surprise awaiting a first-time reader of An Actor Prepares is how conversational, commonsensical, and even at times funny this legendary book is. After many productions with the Moscow Arts Company, Stanislavski sought a way to introduce his new style of acting to the world outside of his rehearsal hall. The resulting book is a “mock diary” of an actor describing a series of exercises and rehearsals in which he participates. He details his own emotional and intellectual reactions to each effort, and how his superficial tricks and mannerisms begin to disappear as he increasingly gives over his conscious ego to a faith in the creative power of his subconscious. Rarely has any writer on the theater achieved the sort of lucid and inspired analysis of the acting process as Stanislavski does here, and his introduction of such now-standard concepts as “the unbroken line,” “the magic if,” and the idea of emotional memory has laid the groundwork for much of the great acting of the 20th century. While much excess and nonsense was to follow in the steps of Stanislavski’s writings, his original texts remain invaluable, and surprisingly accessible, to any actor or student of drama. –John Longenbaugh

Konstantin Stanislavki

The Intent to Live

“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, from the IntroductionWhen Oscar-winning actors Helen Hunt and Hilary Swank accepted their Academy Awards, each credited Larry Moss’s guidance as key to their career-making performances.

Larry Moss

The Power of the Actor Ivana Chubbuck

In The Power of the Actor, a Los Angeles Times bestseller, premier acting teacher and coach Ivana Chubbuck reveals her cutting-edge technique, which has launched some of the most successful acting careers in Hollywood.The first book from the instructor who has taught Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt, Elisabeth Shue, Djimon Hounsou, and Halle Berry, The Power of the Actor guides you to dynamic and effective results. For many of today’s major talents, the Chubbuck Technique is the leading edge of acting for the twenty-first century. Ivana Chubbuck has developed a curriculum that takes the theories of the acting masters, such as Stanislavski, Meisner, and Hagen, to the next step by utilizing inner pain and emotions, not as an end in itself, but rather as a way to drive and win a goal.

Respect for acting

Respect for Acting “This fascinating and detailed book about acting is Miss Hagen’s credo, the accumulated wisdom of her years spent in intimate communion with her art. It is at once the voicing of her exacting standards for herself and those she [taught], and an explanation of the means to the end.” –Publishers Weekly “Hagen adds to the large corpus of titles on acting with vivid dicta drawn from experience, skill, and a sense of personal and professional worth. Her principal asset in this treatment is her truly significant imagination. Her ‘object exercises’ display a wealth of detail with which to stimulate the student preparing a scene for presentation.” –Library Journal “Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting …is a relatively small book. But within it, Miss Hagen tells the young actor about as much as can be conveyed in print of his craft.” –Los Angeles Times “There are almost no American actors uninfluenced by Uta Hagen.” –Fritz Weaver “This is a textbook for aspiring actors, but working thespians can profit much by it. Anyone with just a casual interest in the theater should also enjoy its behind-the-scenes flavor.” –King Features Syndicate

Uta Hagen

No Acting Please

A collection of 125 acting exercises that are based on journal excerpts and dialogues from Mr. Morris’ classes. These exercises teach the actor to systematically eliminate his or her instrumental obstacles — tensions, fears, inhibitions — and explore the “being” state, where the actor does no more and no less than what he or she feels. As the title indicates, many of the techniques herein address the actor’s need to avoid falling into the traps of concept and presentational acting. There is also a complete chapter on sense memory — what it is, and how to practice it and apply it as an acting tool. Co-authored by Joan Hotchkis, and with a Foreword by Jack Nicholson.

Eric Morris

Acting (The Basics)

Now in a vibrantly revised second editon, Acting: The Basics remains a practical and theoretical guide to the world of the professional actor, which skilfully combines ideas from a range of practitioners and linking the academy to the industry. Retaining a balance between acting history, a discussion of pioneers and a consideration of the practicalities of acting techniques, the new edition includes a discussion of acting for the screen as well as the practicalities of stage acting, including training, auditioning and rehearsing. With a glossary of terms and useful website suggestions, this is the ideal introduction for anyone wanting to learn more about the practice and history of acting.

Bella Merlin

The Art of Acting

Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century’s greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career both in New York and Hollywood she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors including Marlon Brando Warren Beatty and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties but her decades of experience and teaching have been brilliantly caught and encapsulated by Howard Kissel in the twenty-two lessons in this book.

Stella Adler

On the Acting Technique

2014 Reprint of 1952 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Chekov has recorded the results of his many years of experimenting, testing and verifying in the professional theater and schools of theater. He brings to the actor far greater insight into himself and the character he is to portray, which enables him to approach any role with new ease and skill. Chekhov was told by Stanislawsky to organize his observations and thoughts and present them to his audience. Preface by Yul Brynner. Illustrated by Nicolai Remisoff.

Michael Chekhov

The Actor and the Target

A definitive guide to acting. A revised and updated edition of Declan Donnellan’s international bestseller, a fresh and radical approach to acting by a world-famous director and one of the most successful titles ever published by Nick Hern Books.

“The Actor and the Target comes from the heart of his own experience. Fear, generalising and other actor’s blocks are dismembered lethally and with infectious relish.” Alan Rickman

“Brilliantly direct, the ‘target’ equips the actor with keys to unlock the fears and flab of acting. Declan’s insightful voice guides us to the heart of the process; exhilirating to read and more importantly to put into practice.” Joseph Fiennes.

“Cuts open every generalisation about acting and draws out gleamingly fresh specifics.” Peter Brook

Declan Donnelan

On Acting

This book, written in collaboration with Dennis Longwell, follows an acting class of eight men and eight women for fifteen months, beginning with the most rudimentary exercises and ending with affecting and polished scenes from contemporary American plays. Throughout these pages Meisner is delight–always empathizing with his students and urging them onward, provoking emotion, laughter, and growing technical mastery from his charges.

Sanford Miesner 



Are Acting Books a Waste of Time?


I understand that acting books are a tough read, but they are essential reading for actors. They are often very intellectual and can be hard to process, but they will give you a solid foundation in acting. The authors of the books listed above are the ones who invented modern acting. Without them, and their books we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The best way to improve as an actor is to get up on the floor: auditioning, rehearsing, being on stage or screen. That being said, you need to have a solid acting foundation so that as you gain more experience you aren’t developing bad habits at the same time.

Acting books every actor needs

Where to Start

Just read one book this month. 

If like me you hate reading acting technique books then start with one. Buy it and commit to it. It’s going to be hard to finish. so set a date to have the book finished by. Get a notebook and take notes as you go. Don’t expect to learn everything in one read. They are reference books and require a few return visits.

Another option is trying the audiobook version of some of them. I personally love listening to audio-books while doing something else.

What are the books that helped you the most on your acting career ?