Book For Actors: Our Top 10 Choices

9th March 2022

Book For Actors: Our Top 10 Choices
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

Do you want to know what are the best books to read for actors? Are you looking for the best monologue books for actors? We will tell you all about the acting books for young actors and the best books for aspiring actors. It’s all here, so keep reading! These are our top 10 books for actors – and I might include a few extra as it is quite hard to whittle it down. 

Why should you invest your time and money in books as performers? Books can be great guides for actors, give you the knowledge of the processes, methods used by actors before you and give you the ultimate power to go forward in your career. Books can strengthen the brain, create more empathy, build your vocabulary and prevent cognitive decline. As actors, our brain needs to be working at 100%, as we need to learn lines, remember movement on both the stage and on set. In short, reading will help you in terms of your physical and mental health. Never stop learning and honing your craft. 

Acting books can span over different foundational work; such as methods and processes to use as an actor, audition technique, monologues and even how to succeed from a business point of view in this industry.  

books for actors

An Actor Prepares – Konstantin Stanislavski 

Now for any aspiring actor, you will more than likely be told about someone called Konstantin Stanislavski, as his systematic process is paramount to really deciphering the character you play. He explored the use of creativeness, imagination and objectives & actions and his technique has been deployed on both  stage and screen for decades. It was the first of the three books he wrote – Building a Character, Creating a Role. 

In the book, he creates a fictional diary of a student at drama school called Kostya, who experiences the ups and downs of being an actor and all the while his teacher Tortsov explains how little he really knows and how much there is to learn. 

“You can kill the King without a sword, and you can light the fire without a match. What needs to burn is your imagination.” Constantin Stanislavski 

A Challenge for the Actor – UTA Hagen

Uta Hagen’s book will explore the process of acting with the use of just 9 questions. It is straightforward if you are looking for acting books for young actors, or best books for beginning actors. You will see how to break down a character with questions such as, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Where am I?’, ‘What surrounds me?’, ‘What is my relationship?’ and ‘What do I want?’ By answering these questions, you will understand why your character acts in the way they do. 

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

Jenna’s book of her journey for survival as an actor which began at the age of 22, when she moved from St. Louis to LA will be one you can’t put down. She didn’t know a single person in the industry, but she was resilient, confident and worked har. She explores what to expect as an actor if that is the career path you have chosen. You will learn that it takes time, as it did for her – 8 years to win her first Emmy – and there will be a shed load of rejection for you to barrage through before someone says yes.

Sanford Meisner on Acting – Sanford Meisner 

This book follows one of his acting classes over 15 months and it is essential reading. He begins with the most rudimentary exercises and ends with affecting and polished scenes from contemporary American plays. 

As Arthur Miller puts it, ‘This book should be read by anyone who wants to act or even appreciate what acting involves. Like Meisner’s way of teaching, it is the straight goods’. 

In-Depth Acting (The Actor’s Toolkit) – Dee Cannon 

This is an essential guide to the Stanislavski technique, filtering out the complexities of the system and offering a dynamic, hands-on approach. Provides a comprehensive understanding of character, preparation, text, subtext and objectives. A perfect book for someone who is an aspiring actor. 

‘A book that will stand the test of time’ – Pierce Brosnan

books in library

The Actor’s Book of Contemporary Stage Monologues: More Than 150 Monologues from More Than 70 Playwrights – Nina Shengold  

This anthology is one for any actor, which entails 150 contemporary monologues which will cover a diverse range of subjects and styles and moods.  Each monologue is introduced with a short description of the plot, setting, and character type by the leading playwrights. 

Contemporary Monologues for Men – NHB Good Audition Guides): The Good Audition Guides

50 audition pieces for men will be your aid for any drama school audition, or professional casting which have all been written since 2000. Playwrights featured include Howard Brenton, Jez Butterworth, Alexi Kaye Campbell, Caryl Churchill, Ariel Dorfman, Ella Hickson, Lucy Kirkwood, Bruce Norris, Jack Thorne and Enda Walsh. 

Acting as a Business – Brian O’Neil

The industry today is all about promotion, and this book, having been written by a former talent agent, sheds light on everything you need to do to become a professional actor. It includes how to write a cover letter, where to stand when performing in an agent’s office – how to get an agent in the first place, how to communicate to an agent or manager effectively and how to coordinate your social media presence. 

The Intent to Live – Larry Moss

He is relevant to the modern actor and has taught people such as Justin Timberlake and Leonardo DiCaprio in his time. His technique prioritises preparation, script analysis, case studies, and insights which help you develop the character. In short, he takes students on a journey to set their emotions, imagination, and behavior on fire. 

“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

Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part – Michael Shurtleff

If you need a clear narrative of how to get the part, then look no further. What to do that moment before, how to use humour; create mystery; how to develop a distinct style; and how to evaluate the place, the relationships and the competition. In fact, Audition is a necessary guide to dealing with all the “auditions” we face in life. Shurtleff shares a 12-step guide with corresponding questions to help actors prep for auditions and callbacks. Some favorite techniques that emerge are “playing opposites,” “finding humor and love,” and “the moment before.

Final Thoughts

And those are our top 10 choices for the must read books for actors. It is a necessary part of being an actor and it is a way of continuing to hone your craft. Remember, you still learn even after leaving drama school. ‘Curiosity is the fuel for discovery, inquiry and learning.’ Happy reading!

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