15 Books Every Actors Needs To Read – On-Camera Acting & Theater Acting Books

15 Must Read Acting Books

In this article, I will be unveiling 15 books that you should read as a beginner actor or perhaps an actor without experience. These books simplify acting for beginners and are also helpful for professional actors.

These books will be listed in two parts, the best books on acting for films (on-camera acting books) and also on-stage acting books. But before I reveal these books, I will make you understand what type of books an actor should read, so you can perfectly prioritize the reading of the books.

Table of Contents

What Books Should Actors Read

There are numerous books out there for actors to read, books that were written by great authors. The books are written are passing a general idea to you, ideas on Audition, Techniques, and Theatre acting.

You should read books about;

  • Books About Audition – Starting off by reading books on auditions will be good for you, as it will help you prepare for auditions and teach you how to direct yourself. Getting an audition role is one thing, but you should know how to work the opportunity to bag the role, so I will advise you to start with the book “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff.
  • Books On Acting Techniques – The next kind of book you should get, should be centered on acting techniques because beyond getting roles through auditions, you should have a pattern of exhibiting the character. Top actors use various techniques like Method Acting, Meisner Technique, Chekov Technique, and Modern Acting. You will find the books to get these techniques below.
  • Books On Theatre Acting – You should read books on theatre acting to build your stage performance, for actors who want to star on Broadway, it will be best to start with “improvisation for the Theatre” by Viola Spolin.

15 Must Read Acting Books

[Book 1] – An Actor Prepares

An Actor Progress by Konstantin Stanislavsky

Book Title: An Actor Prepares

Author: Konstantin Stanislavsky
Year Published: 1936
Subject: Acting
Pages: 313

Book Description:
This book opens the art of acting trilogy done by Stanislavski; he used a semi-fictional format to give a vivid explanation of the art of acting. Combining expressionism with psychological realism, he teaches actors how to evoke past emotions using exploratory exercises to expose their vulnerability. He also introduced rehearsal aid concepts like “magic if,” ” the “unbroken line,” emotion memory” etc. This classic manual is written in the manner of a Director instructing fictional actors (based on Stanislavski). Stanislavski teaches the actor through the student’s mistakes, struggles, questions, and revelation.

[Book 2] – Sanford Meisner on Acting

Sanford Meisner on Acting - by Sanford Meisner, Dennis Longwell and Sydney Pollack

Book Title: Sanford Meisner On Acting

Authors: Sanford Meisner, Dennis Longwell, and Sydney Pollack
Year Published: July 12, 1987
Subject: Acting
Pages: 272

Book Description:
This book was written with significant input from Dennis Longwell. It follows an acting class that includes eight women and men for fifteen months, starting with the most basic exercises and ending with affecting and polished scenes from contemporary American plays. Throughout the book, Meisner delights—always in empathizing with his students and urging them onward, provoking emotion, laughter, and growing technical mastery from his charges.

[Book 3] – Respect for Acting

Respect For Acting by Uta Hagen & Haskel Frankel

Book Title: Respect for Acting

Authors: Uta Hagen & Haskel Frankel
Year Published: September 1st, 1973
Subject: Acting
Pages: 240

Book Description:
In this book, Hagen adds to the numerous titles on acting with a clear statement drawn from experience, skill, and a sense of individual and professional worth. Her principal asset in this treatment is her truly significant imagination. Her ‘object exercises’ showcase an abundance of detail with which to stimulate the student scene preparation for presentation.

[Book 4] – Acting in Films

Acting in Films by Michael Caine

Book Title: Acting in Films

Author: Michael Caine
Year Published: February 1st, 2000
Subject: Acting
Pages: 172

Book Description:
This book gives you a golden chance to rob Mr. Cain blind. The man who has entranced camera lenses for a quarter of a century unveils the most treasured secrets on script preparation. How to work with directors, creating a character, sound, movement, and voice. Pearl by pearl he lays out the Caine wisdom on matters ranging from set politics to set decorum, the film administration, and even more!

[Book 5] – The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor

The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor

Book Title: The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor

Author: Larry Moss
Year Published: January 1st, 2004
Subject: On-Camera Acting
Pages: 368

Book Description:
This book should not be referred to as a handbook because it is the personal philosophy of a master teacher. Every page is filled with Moss’s respect and love for actors and their craft, using a plethora of both classic and current plays and films as examples, while acknowledging great performances. Whether you are seeking to understand the greatness of acting or you are a full-time actor, this material will definitely instruct and inspire you.

[Book 6] – Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus

Actions: The Actors' Thesaurus

Book Title: Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus

Author: Marina Caldarone, Maggie Lloyd-Williams
Year Published: March 17, 2006
Subject: On-Camera Acting
Pages: 158

Book Description:

Actors cannot do without actions. They can’t act adjectives, and they only act verbs. This book helps the actor to refine the action word until they get the exact one to make the action come alive.

[Book 7] – The Art of Acting

the art of acting

Book Title: The Art of Acting

Author: Stella Adler
Year Published: November 1st, 2000
Subject: On-Camera Acting
Pages: 275

Book Description:
Stella Adler is arguably the greatest 20th Century figure and the most important teacher of acting in the history of America. In New York and Hollywood, she influenced so many actors with her vast acting knowledge, among whom include Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, and Warren Beatty. Her passing on in the early nineteens left so many heartbroken, but her great work lives in this book, compounded as twenty-two lessons.

[Book 8] – Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part

Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part

Book Title: Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part

Author: Michael Shurtleff
Year Published: December 2, 1979
Subject: On-Camera Acting

Book Description:
Mr. Michael has been creating content as Director for Broadway shows like “Chicago and Becket” and for films like “The Graduate” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He has set so many careers on course with his course on auditioning. Through this book, he reveals the all-important “HOW” for all aspiring actors, from acting beginners to the proven talent battling out for that chance-in-a-million role.

[Book 9] – To The Actor

To The Actor

Book Title: To The Actor

Author: Michael Chekov & Simon Callow
Year Published: May 2, 2002
Subject: On-Camera Acting
Pages: 288

Book Description:
How does an actor learn to:
• Call up emotion?
• Develop a Character?
• Strengthen Awareness?
This book by Michael Chekhov is an essential guide for every actor; it reveals techniques clearly and concisely, and shows you how to develop them.

[Book 10] – Stop Acting, Start Living

Stop Acting, Start Living

Book Title: Stop Acting, Start Living

Author: Bernard Hiller
Year Published: January 18, 2013
Subject: Acting
Pages: 164

Book Description:
Bernard Hiller has had an amazing career as a teacher, helping great names like Jeff Goldblum, Billy Crystal, Emilio Rivera, LL Cool J, Chace Crawford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lindsay Lohan, etc… He coached the dazzling Cameron Diaz for her first big audition “The Mask” with Jim Carrey, which launched her career.

[Book 11] – Improvisation for the Theater

Stop Acting, Start Living

Book Title: Improvisation for the Theater

Author: Viola Spolin (Paul Sills Editor)
Year Published: July 28, 1999. First Published 1963.
Subject: Theatre
Pages: 412

Book Description:
This is the revised third edition of the bible of improvisational theater.
Viola Spolin’s improvisational techniques reshaped modern theater practices. The first two editions of Improvisation for the Theater sold well over 100,000 copies and were a great source of inspiration for actors, directors, writers, and teachers in theater, television, and film.

[Book 12] – The Fervent Years: The Group Theatre and the 30’s

The Fervent Years: The Group Theatre and the 30's

Book Title: The Fervent Years: The Group Theatre and the 30’s

Author: Harold Clurman & Stella Adler
Year Published: March 22, 1983
Subject: Theatre Acting
Pages: 352

Book Description:
Experimenting with Group Theatre significantly changed the landscape of theatres in America. It gave opportunities to actors, playwrights, and directors to creatively address issues. The “Group” greatly affected Drama in America in just ten years. It gave room for different techniques to be birthed, like method acting, naive realism, and political language.

[Book 13] – The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate

The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate

Book Title: The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate

Author: Peter Brook
Year Published: December 1st, 1995
Subject: Theatre Acting
Pages: 144

Book Description:
Peter Brook, who directed and co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company, wrote “The Empty Space”. This is a book that analyzes theatre from the stables of one of the most influential stage directors of the twentieth century.

[Book 14] – Acting and Reacting

Acting and Reacting

Book Title: Acting and Reacting

Author: Nick Moseley
Year Published: February 4, 2006
Subject: Theatre Acting
Pages: 202

Book Description:
Emoting and reproducing are not acting, but reacting is acting. Acting and Reacting stimulates acting students and teachers to think and reflect.

[Book 15] – Comedy Acting for Theatre: The Art and Craft of Performing in Comedies

Comedy Acting for Theatre: The Art and Craft of Performing in Comedies

Book Title: Comedy Acting for Theatre: The Art and Craft of Performing in Comedies

Author: Sidney Homan & Brian Rhinehart
Year Published: February 22, 2018
Subject: Theatre Acting
Pages: 205

Book Description:
Deep in criticizing our performance, Sidney Homan and Brian Rhinehart explain in detail how comedy works, and also provide advice on how to communicate comedy for both the performer and the audience. It combines the author’s analysis both Combining theory and performance, both modern and classic plays. He featured some playwrights like Harold Pinter, Christopher Durang, Michael Frayn, and Tom Stoppard.


From all the books listed, you could see the great work done by men and women over the years, to help actors attain their full potential. This is why you must follow through with the books and carve a niche for yourself in the acting industry because reading helps build the minds of men.

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Firas Sameer, a movie director with several video productions for cinemas, festivals, TV commercials.. etc with several international awards and recognitions for his work.

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