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Books About Acting: The 40 BEST Acting Books of All Time

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
6 MINUTE READ

Looking for the best books about acting ever written?

You’re in the right place!

Here’s what you’ll find on this page…

Why Acting Is Awesome (Even if You’re Not an Actor)

Acting is a difficult and fascinating vocation.

It demands high levels of emotional intelligence, listening, self discipline and empathy. It requires incredible courage, groundedness and vulnerability to lean in to thoughts and emotions (repeatedly and on demand) that we mostly spend our whole lives avoiding.

I’m not an actor. But I have enormous respect for its masters. And what limited acting I’ve done has taught me more about myself and other people than any other form of self-improvement.

If you ARE an actor, and you’re here today looking for the best acting books ever written then rest assured: the rankings below are driven by the reviews and opinions of your colleagues – not my unqualified choices.

For the rest of us, if I could recommend only one new experience this year that will teach you more about yourself than anything else I can think of, join an improv or acting course and lean in to the challenging places it leads you.

In either case, you’ll learn a huge amount from the books about acting below.

So without further ado… here’s the list!

The 40 Best Books About Acting

Why these best books about acting and not others? The books about acting below are the top picks from my long list of acting books, ranked by a combination of Goodreads rating, number of Goodreads reviews and first publication date. The aim is to surface what’s most loved, what’s most popular and what’s proven timelessly relevant.

Think something’s missing? Email me and I’ll add it to the next round of updates. I honestly love hearing from you so please, do get in touch!

Books 1-10: The Top 10 Acting Books of All Time

The 10 best books about acting of all time are…

Books About Acting: Impro
1. Impro – Keith Johnstone
Improvisation and the Theatre
Published 1979 // 208 pages // Rated 4.3 over 2,900 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: Audition
2. Audition – Michael Shurtleff
Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part
Published 1978 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 2,400 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: Respect for Acting
3. Respect for Acting – Uta Hagen
Published 1973 // 227 pages // Rated 4.2 over 2,700 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: An Actor Prepares
4. An Actor Prepares – Konstantin Stanislavski
Published 1938 // 320 pages // Rated 4.1 over 3,800 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: Building a Character
5. Building a Character – Konstantin Stanislavski
Published 1949 // 352 pages // Rated 4.2 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: Improvisation for the Theatre
6. Improvisation for the Theatre – Viola Spolin
A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques
Published 1963 // 412 pages // Rated 4.3 over 600 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: Games for Actors and Non-Actors
7. Games for Actors and Non-Actors – Augusto Boal
Published 1975 // 336 pages // Rated 4.4 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: On the Technique of Acting
8. On the Technique of Acting – Michael Chekhov
Published 1953 // 240 pages // Rated 4.2 over 800 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: To the Actor
9. To the Actor – Michael Chekhov
Published 1953 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 800 reviews on Goodreads
Books About Acting: Sanford Meisner on Acting
10. Sanford Meisner on Acting – Sanford Meisner
Published 1987 // 250 pages // Rated 4.2 over 2,300 reviews on Goodreads

Books 11-40: 30 More Best Acting Books to Read Next

Still curious? Here are 30 more great acting books to read next…

11. An Actor’s Work – Konstantin Stanislavski
Published 1938 // 693 pages // Rated 4.3 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
12. Acting – Richard Boleslavsky
The First Six Lessons
Published 1933 // 138 pages // Rated 4.1 over 700 reviews on Goodreads
13. Backwards and Forwards – David Ball
A Technical Manual for Reading Plays
Published 1983 // 112 pages // Rated 4.1 over 1,400 reviews on Goodreads
14. The Art of Acting – Stella Adler
Published 2000 // 275 pages // Rated 4.2 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads
15. A Challenge For The Actor – Uta Hagen
Published 1991 // 336 pages // Rated 4.2 over 800 reviews on Goodreads
16. The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual – Matt Besser
Published 2013 // 384 pages // Rated 4.5 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads
17. Actions – Marina Caldarone
The Actors’ Thesaurus
Published 2003 // 196 pages // Rated 4.4 over 600 reviews on Goodreads
18. Improvise – Mick Napier
Scene from the Inside Out
Published 2004 // 130 pages // Rated 4.3 over 900 reviews on Goodreads
19. Creating a Role – Konstantin Stanislavski
Published 1961 // 320 pages // Rated 4.1 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
20. The Actor’s Art and Craft – William Esper
William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique
Published 2008 // 304 pages // Rated 4.5 over 600 reviews on Goodreads
21. Freeing the Natural Voice – Kristin Linklater
Published 1976 // 210 pages // Rated 4.1 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
22. The Intent to Live – Larry Moss
Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor
Published 2004 // 368 pages // Rated 4.4 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
23. The Actor and the Target – Declan Donnellan
Published 2000 // 300 pages // Rated 4.2 over 600 reviews on Goodreads
24. The Moving Body – Jacques Lecoq
Teaching Creative Theatre
Published 1997 // 169 pages // Rated 4.3 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
25. Power of the Actor – Ivana Chubbuck
Published 2004 // 388 pages // Rated 4.3 over 700 reviews on Goodreads
26. The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp
Learn It and Use It for Life
Published 2003 // 247 pages // Rated 4.0 over 32,500 reviews on Goodreads
27. Truth in Comedy – Charna Halpern
The Manual of Improvisation
Published 1994 // 150 pages // Rated 4.0 over 2,000 reviews on Goodreads
28. A Practical Handbook for the Actor – Melissa Bruder
Published 1986 // 112 pages // Rated 3.9 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads
29. Speak with Distinction – Edith Skinner
The Classic Skinner Method to Speech on the Stage
Published 1942 // 680 pages // Rated 4.2 over on Goodreads
30. How To Be The Greatest Improviser On Earth – Will Hines
Published 2016 // 226 pages // Rated 4.5 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
31. Secrets of Screen Acting – Patrick Tucker
Published 1993 // 256 pages // Rated 4.3 over 100 reviews on Goodreads
32. The Viewpoints Book – Anne Bogart
A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition
Published 2004 // 240 pages // Rated 4.3 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
33. Self-Management for Actors – Bonnie Gillespie
Getting Down to (Show) Business
Published 2003 // 326 pages // Rated 4.4 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
34. Strasberg’s Method as Taught by Lorrie Hull – Lorrie Hull
A Practical Guide for Actors, Teachers, and Directors
Published 1985 // 358 pages // Rated 4.3 over on Goodreads
35. True and False – David Mamet
Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
Published 1997 // 144 pages // Rated 3.9 over 2,200 reviews on Goodreads
36. And Then, You Act – Anne Bogart
Making Art in an Unpredictable World
Published 2007 // 152 pages // Rated 4.4 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
37. How to Stop Acting – Harold Guskin
Published 2003 // 208 pages // Rated 4.2 over 400 reviews on Goodreads
38. No Acting Please – Eric Morris
A Revolutionary Approach to Acting and Living
Published 1979 // 176 pages // Rated 4.0 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
39. The Technique of Acting – Stella Adler
Published 1988 // 156 pages // Rated 4.2 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
40. The Stanislavski System – Sonia Moore
The Professional Training of an Actor
Published 1965 // 96 pages // Rated 3.9 over 300 reviews on Goodreads

BONUS: The Top 10 Acting Biographies and Memoirs

The 10 best acting biographies of all time are…

Best Acting Biographies: The Moon's a Balloon
1. The Moon’s a Balloon – David Niven
Published 1971 // 327 pages // Rated 4.0 over 7,900 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: By Myself
2. By Myself – Lauren Bacall
Published 1978 // 512 pages // Rated 4.0 over 4,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: My Autobiography
3. My Autobiography – Charlie Chaplin
Published 1964 // 512 pages // Rated 3.9 over 8,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: My Life in Art
4. My Life in Art – Konstantin Stanislavski
Published 1924 // 503 pages // Rated 4.2 over 400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: The Lonely Life
5. The Lonely Life – Bette Davis
Published 1962 // 253 pages // Rated 4.1 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: Lucky Man
6. Lucky Man – Michael J. Fox
Published 2002 // 260 pages // Rated 4.0 over 27,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: Acting in Film
7. Acting in Film – Michael Caine
An Actor’s Take on Movie Making
Published 1989 // 186 pages // Rated 4.2 over 1,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: Greenlights
8. Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
Published 2020 // 308 pages // Rated 4.2 over 118,200 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: Yes I Can
9. Yes I Can – Sammy Davis Jr.
Published 1965 // 611 pages // Rated 4.2 over 600 reviews on Goodreads
Best Acting Biographies: A Life in Parts
10. A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston
Published 2016 // 271 pages // Rated 4.2 over 14,900 reviews on Goodreads
Note: For more biographies and memoirs, check out this list of the 70 best biographies and memoirs of all time.

More Book Recommendations

Enjoyed this list of the best books about acting of all time? Here’s a breakdown of all the book lists and book recommendations on the site…

More Best Books of All Time (by Type)

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These are some lists of best nonfiction books to read...

More Best Fiction Books (by Genre)

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Best Books About Acting

Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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