Recommended Books On Acting To Level Up Your Skills

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As an actor, working on your craft is crucial to your growth – finding what you need to focus on and perfecting that makes you more confident in your abilities, making you more marketable.

This article shows you some of the best acting books out there. These are considered essential reading for anyone wanting to learn new techniques, figure out how to survive as an actor, or expand their acting education knowledge base.

This list is also well-rounded, meaning it will work with various acting subjects to provide you with as much knowledge and opportunities as possible.

Let’s look at some of the best books on acting you can get.

Acting for the Camera by Tony Barr

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During his long and impressive career, Tony Barr was a director, actor, and acting class instructor. Wishing to help actors train for the stage to transition to film acting, Barr wrote Acting for the Camera, published in 1997. 

This constructive novel is divided into five sections: “Acting,” “Working on the Role,” “Tools,” “The Machinery of Film and Tape,” and “The Film/Tape Career.” Barr communicates that your main goal as an actor is to portray emotions that the audience can pick up and resonate with. 

He elaborates that the main difference between stage and screen acting is the distance between you and the audience. He works with you to differentiate between what you know about stage acting and what to develop for the camera.

Movie making is very different from theatre, so the in-depth look provided by Barr is helpful to you to advance your skills.

Barr discusses how to develop character development, convey concepts for your performance that you have in your head, and truly listen while performing (arguably one of the most essential notions in the acting world).

With a foreword written by one of the late, great actors, Ed Asner (Elf, Up), it is a must-read if you are hoping to develop concepts you have learned in the theatre world for the film world.

The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer

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This book differs from others on this list because while it does not discuss various acting techniques, it is very helpful for everyday life and your eventual success as an actor.

When you read this, you are faced with the reality that Jenna Fischer faced while she struggled to land roles and how she became the successful actress she is today. 

Fischer is known mostly for her iconic role as Pam Beasly on The Office, but what was it like for her before then? Fischer is completely honest when she discusses how she didn’t start her acting career until her early 20s and how it took ten years to land her big gig.

While providing her autobiography, Fischer gives tips for thriving in the entertainment industry.

She talks about all headshots and how to match personality to the picture, get an agent in this business, develop good auditioning skills, deal with being turned down constantly, and more. 

Preparing for a career as an actor is more than the technique- if you want a realistic guide on navigating the daily struggles on your journey to “making it,” I recommend this one, as it is an essential book for real-world acting advice.

Fellow Office alum Steve Carrell writes the foreword.

A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previtio, and Scott Zigler

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Have you ever wondered if the audience believes in the story being told by your performance? Do you believe in the story you are telling? 

If you have these questions, then this book is for you. This group of industry professionals knows how to make your onstage acting convincing and realistic. They want to help you pull the audience into your story by making your performance believable and entertaining.

While there are a multitude of acting classes, many lack the details needed for you to succeed as a performer. A Practical Handbook for the Actor is a comprehensive guide that pinpoints what you need to do to be good at what you do.

The handbook is broken into two sections. Part A, called “The Technique,” talks about polishing the methods you already know, from physicality to scene preparation. Part B,  titled “Pitfalls (Working in the Real World),” discusses rules of thumb to live by as a performer, making you more likely to be hired to work in the theatre.

Sanford Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell

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If you hope to develop your skills in the Meisner Technique, look no further than opening this book. This novel, focusing on the creator of the Meisner Technique, Sanford Meisner, follows a class taught by the creative for over a year.

Longwell starts the book by illustrating the measure of Meisner’s presence as the teacher and how powerful the acting classes were.  The book discusses various acting exercises such as preparation, improvising, how to connect yourself to the part you have, and more. 

Since the Meisner Technique is one of the most famous acting practices, you must build a knowledge base.

This book is also great for your learning beyond the Meisner Technique. If you are looking for a place to start building your acting practices, this is a solid place. 

Connecting yourself to your acting style and why you work how you do is crucial to your success as an actor. It will make you confident and capable but also knowledgeable. Sanford Meisner on Acting will assist you in strengthening yourself in that regard. 

The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act by Isaac Butler

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On the other side of acting techniques, you will find the Stanislavski Method, another famous performance approach.

Looking at the Stanislavski Method, how do actors curate the method to suit their acting needs? How is their performance believable to the audience without feeling phoned in?

Isaac Butler’s book studies how the Stanislavski Method has been implemented by various actors and instructors throughout the twentieth century, improving on the technique and passing that knowledge on.

He talks about notable people such as Lee Strasburg and Stella Adler and how they rebuilt the technique to work with the actors of the era during their global economic struggles.

Using points in history to highlight the performances of actors and directors, Butler uses the Stanislavski Method to show you how world-renowned Hollywood came to be and how the actors within that space developed into talented artists who carried their performances beyond our expectations.

He uses real-life examples from globally famous faces to make his point, making this read even more intriguing.

If you want to build your expertise on the Stanislavski Method and the history of the acting industry, this is the book for you.

Playing Shakespeare: An Actor’s Guide by Jonathan Barton

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Since you are an actor, you have or will work with the late and great William Shakespeare’s plays. With famous material like Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet, there are many pages for you to unpack. 

The biggest struggle you will face is how to act out Shakespeare’s scripts.

Looking at the language in his plays, it is immediately seen as complicated and hard to understand.

So how do you, as the actor, ensure your performance is something you know and can translate to the audience? Because not only are you the performer here- you are also the translator.

This guide is broken into two sections- the first analyzes the written material and characters that Shakespeare has developed. The second part digs in even more, working with you to add some layers to your overall performance.

Barton works with notable actors such as Ian McKellan and Judi Dench to help illustrate his points.

If you hope to understand Shakespeare, one of the most famous playwrights in the past and present day, this guide will be helpful and constructive. 

How to Stop Acting: A Renowned Acting Coach Shares His Revolutionary Approach to Landing Roles, Developing Them and Keeping Them Alive by Harold Guskin

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Are you looking to improve your acting skills but are worn out when studying acting methods?

While there is a lot of important information regarding different approaches from Meisner and Stanislavski, it can be exhilarating to practice a simpler concept with the same positive outcomes.

This is where Harold Guskin’s book comes in. Guskin believes in a simple idea without any extra fluff or complicated theory involved- to react to the text honestly, working with where your mind and emotions take you.

Guskin believes you should constantly learn and grow in your craft instead of working towards a particular mental checkpoint, making you less limited in your progress.

Using different examples of works from camera and stage material, Guskin gives you advice on how to work with what is asked of you today as an entertainer. 

The six chapters of this book provide extensive knowledge from Guskin on various aspects of acting from his innovative perspective.

The Actor’s Secret: Techniques for Transforming Habitual Patterns and Improving Performance by Betsy Polatin

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Any acting class briefly covers how to combat “the jitters” during a performance.

While those feelings sometimes never go away while performing a scene, I have often wondered how my performance could have improved if the stage fright bug had not bitten me.

I guarantee you have had the same thoughts before.

In The Actor’s Secret, Polatin works with you to incorporate breathing techniques, the Alexander Technique, and Somatic Experiencing to reduce this feeling you can get onstage.

She also uses this cocktail of acting methods to improve how you feel and sound during your performance. 

Polatin believes that you can express yourself with a unique presence by mixing these methods. Everyone has their way of doing things that truly works for them, and she wants to help you find yours.

By using these physical exercises repetitively, you can “get out of your own way” by getting rid of the nervousness and tension that your body builds automatically.

This book is helpful for anyone who has ever experienced stage fright or wants to develop habits for themselves on stage or screen.

The Power of the Actor: The Chubbuck Technique- The 12-Step Acting Technique That Will Take You from Script to a Living, Breathing Dynamic Character by Ivana Chubbuck

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Have you wanted to find an acting method that speaks to you but have felt that the processes are a little outdated? With Chubbuck’s book The Power of the Actor, you can throw that thought away.

The Chubbuck Technique uses classic acting methods (like Meisner and Stanislavski). It develops them even more, using your inner turmoil and emotional aspects to achieve a set goal in a scene.

Chubbuck created her acting technique and has applied it to help actors of the 21st Century succeed- successful actors like Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, and Charlize Theron have been some of her pupils.

The book is split into three parts.

  • Part One breaks down each of the twelve steps of Chubbuck’s process.
  • Part Two is about alternative acting exercises, mostly seen as more challenging to play (such as someone dying or acting as a serial killer).
  • Part Three puts the 12 steps from Part One to use with scenes to which you can apply your new knowledge.

Overall, if you are looking for a new technique to try and want to make yourself a bolder and more able actor, this book is one to check out. With 400 pages of written material, it is a longer read than others on this list but has a lot of helpful information.

Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room by Jen Rudin

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Have you ever been part of the audition process for something and wondered what the casting directors are thinking? Of course, you have! The aspiring actor in you needs this book to navigate auditions from the perspective of someone on the other side- casting director Jen Rudin.

Auditioning and making a positive impression can be daunting in this constantly moving, ever-present environment. With Rudin’s guide, you will be able to navigate with ease. 

Broken down into twelve chapters, Rudin helps you with the various processes for getting into the television/movie industry, the internet fame industry, and the Broadway industry.  

Rudin also uses her years of experience to cover topics like physically preparing for an audition and how to book an agent. These two things are vital for your branding.

If you have wondered what to do after being booked and how to navigate those parts of life, have no fear- Rudin talks about aspects of that as well!

She discusses how to use social media to your advantage, how to maneuver through the overwhelming subway system in New York and the bustling roads in Los Angeles, and what to do after you book a gig you have been banking on.

Rudin gives you lots of helpful hints and invaluable advice on succeeding.

​Final Thoughts

Books are a great resource when you want to improve your own work in the art of acting.

Acting novels help you learn wherever and whenever you want, without the limitations a class setting can bring.

They are an excellent way for young actors to gain insight into practical advice from professional actors with decades of experience. 

Books are much cheaper than classes or seminars (although online acting classes offer a nice middle ground). 

A whole slew of books are available to you to use as a resource to cultivate your acting abilities and your life as an actor in the real world. However, the ones on this list are a fantastic way to begin.

Since this covers various acting topics and ideas, work on what speaks to you and what you want to learn. Keep in mind that it is never too late to educate yourself. Y

You can discover your true potential and experience personal growth by reading and working on your talents.

Look on Amazon for these and other books, browse around, and put your best foot forward to a long career in the industry. Happy reading!


Author

  • Richelle Talor

    Richelle Talor is an actress with talent agencies based in the Midwestern area. A driven creative, she uses her creative skills to write and direct her own short films when she's not on the other side of the camera.

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