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For most actors, the prospect of delving into yet another acting book might seem like pure unadulterated torture. However, the benefits of reading exceptional acting books are immeasurable. In this article, I aim to share some of my all-time favorite acting books, hoping to inspire you to explore these invaluable resources. Not only are these books packed with practical tools and techniques, but they also provide a wellspring of inspiration for aspiring actors.

Respect for Acting by UDA Hargan

UDA Hargan's classic "Respect for Acting" takes the top spot on my list. As a drama school entrant, this was the first acting book I embraced, and it holds a special place in my heart. Hargan, hailed as the queen of given circumstances, delineates the essential who, what, where, when, and why of a scene. Her emphasis on absolute specificity and the art of asking the right questions brings performances to life. Despite its brevity, the book is a treasure trove of insights into every aspect of the actor's process.

What You Should Know:
UDA Hargan's "Respect for Acting" is a foundational guide that introduces actors to the concept of given circumstances. Hargan skillfully outlines the who, what, where, when, and why of a scene, emphasizing the absolute specificity required for a compelling performance. The book acts as a roadmap for actors, guiding them to breathe life into their characters through detailed exploration and questioning.

Why We Love It:
Beyond its practical insights, what makes "Respect for Acting" beloved is its brevity and clarity. Hargan manages to distill complex acting concepts into a concise, accessible format. For those new to acting, this book provides a solid foundation, fostering a love for the craft by demystifying the intricacies of creating authentic and specific characters.



Audition by Michael Shurtleff

Michael Shurtleff's "Audition" secures its place as a must-read for actors. The book resonates with its timeless core ideas, encouraging actors to make strong choices, especially during auditions. Shurtleff's personal and easy-to-read style, evident in the audiobook version as well, emphasizes the importance of curiosity, seeking humor, likeness, and opposites in every performance. The key takeaway is to always strive for authentic, varied, and dynamic performances.

What You Should Know:
Michael Shurtleff's "Audition" is a timeless treasure, offering invaluable advice for actors, particularly during auditions. Shurtleff encourages actors to make strong, memorable choices, steering clear of low-stakes, neutral options. The book serves as a guide to infuse curiosity, humor, likeness, and opposites into performances, creating a lasting impact on casting directors.

Why We Love It:
The personal style of Shurtleff, evident in both the written and audiobook format, makes "Audition" a joy to read. His emphasis on dynamic performances and the pursuit of authenticity resonates with actors at all levels. This book is cherished for its enduring wisdom, providing actors with practical tools to navigate auditions successfully.



Playing Shakespeare by John Barton

"Playing Shakespeare" by John Barton focuses specifically on Shakespearean acting. A companion to an exceptional TV series featuring legendary actors such as Ian McKellen and Judy Dench, this book is a goldmine for Shakespeare enthusiasts. Beyond its relevance to Shakespearean acting, the principles it imparts are applicable to all acting domains. The book underscores the power of language, igniting a passion for great writing and emphasizing the actor's role as a guardian of language.

What You Should Know:
"Playing Shakespeare" by John Barton is a niche treasure focusing on the intricacies of Shakespearean acting. Barton, a revered figure in the realm of Shakespearean performance, provides valuable insights into the power of language. The book is a companion to an educational TV series featuring stellar performances by icons like Ian McKellen and Judy Dench.

Why We Love It:
While indispensable for Shakespearean actors, "Playing Shakespeare" transcends its niche. It instills a profound appreciation for language, prompting actors to become guardians of words. The inclusion of performances by legendary actors elevates the book, making it a source of inspiration and a testament to the timeless beauty of Shakespearean works.



The Power of the Actor by Ivana Chubbuck

Ivana Chubbuck's "The Power of the Actor" stands out for its clear 12-step acting technique, covering every aspect of the acting process. Chubbuck's focus on essential tools like objectives, monologue beats, actions, and even acting drunk is unparalleled. Beyond the techniques, her energy and emphasis on playing to win set this book apart. Chubbuck encourages actors to never play the victim but instead work relentlessly toward their character's objectives.

What You Should Know:
Ivana Chubbuck's "The Power of the Actor" is a comprehensive guide encompassing a 12-step acting technique. It covers essential aspects of the acting process, including objectives, monologue beats, and actions. Chubbuck's focus on playing to win and avoiding the victim mindset empowers actors to approach their characters with passion and purpose.

Why We Love It:
Beyond its practical insights, the energy and enthusiasm that Chubbuck injects into the book make it a standout. The clarity with which she delves into crucial acting tools and techniques, coupled with her emphasis on the actor's role as a hero, makes "The Power of the Actor" a powerful resource. It's a book that not only educates but ignites a fire within aspiring actors.



The Art of Acting by Stella Adler

Stella Adler's "The Art of Acting" emerges as the most inspiring acting book. Adler's personality leaps off the page, creating a visceral sense of learning within an acting class setting. Beyond lessons and tools, the book's key takeaway is the call for actors to be more, to take pride in their craft, and to be curious humans. Adler motivates actors to stand taller, delve into great scripts, and work harder on their craft.

What You Should Know:
Stella Adler's "The Art of Acting" is an inspiring journey into the world of acting, set within the framework of an acting class. Beyond lessons and tools, the book encourages actors to embrace the size of their craft, to stand taller, and to be curious humans. Adler's teachings extend beyond the stage, emphasizing the holistic development of actors.

Why We Love It:
What sets "The Art of Acting" apart is Adler's personal touch and her ability to instill a visceral sense of learning. The book is more than a guide; it's an invitation to be proud of being an actor and to continuously strive for excellence. Adler's influence extends beyond techniques, fostering a mindset that shapes actors into not just performers but passionate contributors to the art of acting.



"A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston:

While not officially an acting book, "A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston offers a captivating story layered with numerous acting takeaways. Cranston, known for his role in Breaking Bad, shares his knowledge and practical advice, making this biography a valuable addition to an actor's reading list.

What You Should Know:
While not officially an acting book, "A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston is a captivating autobiography that offers a layered narrative intertwined with acting insights. Cranston's journey, coupled with practical advice, makes this biography a unique and valuable addition to an actor's reading list.

Why We Love It:
Cranston's candid storytelling and his eagerness to share knowledge make "A Life in Parts" a compelling read. It's not just a recounting of his life but a testament to the lessons he learned along the way. The book serves as a bridge between a captivating life story and actionable advice, offering a holistic perspective on the actor's journey.



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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the best books for acting beginners?

Highly recommend "Respect for Acting" by UDA Hargan. It provides a clear understanding of essential acting concepts, making it a great starting point. Michael Shurtleff's "Audition" is another excellent choice, offering timeless advice, especially for those navigating auditions for the first time.

Are there any specific books recommended for Shakespearean acting?

Absolutely! "Playing Shakespeare" by John Barton is a must-read for anyone delving into Shakespearean acting. It not only provides insights into the nuances of performing Shakespeare but also features contributions from legendary actors like Ian McKellen and Judy Dench.

Can you suggest books that inspire a passionate approach to acting?

Certainly! "The Art of Acting" by Stella Adler is known for its inspirational content. Adler's personal touch and emphasis on being proud of being an actor make it a captivating read. Additionally, "A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston, though not strictly an acting book, offers a compelling narrative layered with valuable acting insights, providing both inspiration and practical advice.


In conclusion, these acting books are not just tools for honing your craft; they are gateways to inspiration, passion, and a deeper understanding of the art of acting. If you remain unconvinced or seek a quick overview of the ideas discussed, check out this video for condensed acting advice that complements the insights shared in this article. Happy reading and see you next time on your journey to mastering the craft of acting!