Best Acting Books and Resources
My Favorite Books and Other Helpful Actor Resources
Also Check Out My List of Self Taping Tools
Below, you'll find a list of some of my favorite acting books. While I'm of the belief that there is no replacement for live acting classes, I think the right books can be great supplementary material to our classroom exercises. Plus, many acting classes don't spend enough time on the business of acting, which is why I've included the excellent book Self Management for Actors by Bonnie Gillespie. By no means is this list exhaustive. There are many more incredible books out there and I encourage you to read much more than what I've provided here.
In addition to the books, I've also listed some of my other favorite acting resources. These include podcasts, websites, YouTube channels (besides mine), and Facebook groups. Just like with the books, this list is not exhaustive. But it's a good start for any actor trying to stay well informed and knowledgeable about the industry.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you end up buying one of these products, Amazon will give me a small commission. Your cost is the same either way. Please do not spend any money on any of these products unless you feel that they will be helpful and useful to you. Thank you for supporting The Acting Career Center!
The book that started it all for me. Since the Meisner Technique was my introduction into the world of acting, I may be a bit biased by putting this book at the top of my list. Nonetheless, this is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn from one of the most respected acting teachers of all time.
Sanford Meisner coined the phrase "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances" and it has been one of the most widely used definitions of acting in the world.
You know Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly from the American version of "The Office." This is her story of how she started as a nobody in Hollywood and ended up as a lead character on one of the most popular shows on TV.
Sometimes, we think that celebrities have had it easy their entire careers. That is almost never the case and certainly not the case here. Jenna goes into great detail about her long, arduous, 8-year journey in LA before landing her breakout role as Pam. This book is essential to understanding the work ethic, determination, and resilience required to "make it" in this industry.
This isn't a link to an individual book, but rather a free trial for the audiobook service, Audible.
I don't know about you, but I LOVE audiobooks. I listen to them when I'm driving, when I'm walking my dog, when I'm cooking dinner, etc. In fact, I listened to Jenna Fischer's book (above) on audiobook. Audible has the world's biggest selection of titles ranging from much-loved classics to new releases and original podcasts.
Sure, this is an old book (first published in 1978), but the information is just as useful today as it was back then. Michael Shurtleff has been a casting director for Broadway shows like Chicago and Becket and for films like The Graduate and Jesus Christ Superstar. He later became a teacher and was one of the first to teach auditioning as a separate skill from acting.
Shurtleff's "12 Guideposts" have been referenced by almost every acting teacher I've ever had. This book is a MUST READ for anyone looking to improve their audition game. So, basically everyone.
I've talked about this book many times in my YouTube videos. It is, in my opinion, the best resource out there on the business of acting. When it comes to the pursuit of an acting CAREER, your talent is only one piece of the puzzle. Knowledge of how the industry works and how to best position yourself for success is just as valuable (if not more) as being able to cry on cue.
Bonnie Gillespie's book reads more like an encyclopedia than anything else. You certainly won't be able to get through all the information in one sitting. But if you are playing the long game, like you should, this book will help guide you though every stage of your career.
This book was written by the casting director for The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Need I say more?
How to Audition on Camera is formatted like a Q&A session. In it, Sharon Bialy answers 28 of the most common questions she gets about auditioning for movies and television shows.
This one is a quick read and can be done in one sitting. That doesn't mean it isn't packed with great information.
Sam Valentine of the One Broke Actress Podcast (linked below) has put together this incredibly valuable resource for actors. This e-book contains 19 pages of terms for Auditions, On Set, Pilots, TV Series, and all the acronyms you need to know!
What is a honey wagon? What does it mean when you are "pinned"? What the heck is a DOOD? Get the Actor Dictionary to learn all of these terms and more!
I have not come across a better resource on the differences between stage and screen acting than this book by Patrick Tucker. He illustrates his points with screen shots and images borrowed from well known movies and shows.
The book also contains over 50 acting exercises like the "silent movie exercise" that help actors create more believable scenes on screen. If your goal is to become a great film and television actor (why else are you here?), then this book should definitely be in your library.
Yes, this is another book on the Meisner Technique. Sue me. Where Sanford Meisner's own book is an introduction to his revolutionary acting technique, William Esper's book explores the topic in much greater detail. Legendary playwright David Mamet even says that Esper was a better teacher of the technique that Meisner himself.
If you find yourself enjoying either of the two Meisner Technique books in this list, I highly recommend you sign up for a class. The Meisner classes that I took when I first started acting are the foundation of my career today.
I think this book is a bit of a hidden gem because most actors and acting teachers probably don't know about it. The subtitle of the book says it is "A Writer's Guide" but hear me out: there is some GREAT information here for actors.
Every emotion entry in the book is accompanied by associated behaviors and action verbs. For example, the entry for "EAGERNESS" has associated behaviors listed "Leaning forward, rushing one's words, rapidly nodding..." The list goes on for about 30 more behaviors associated with eagerness. Can you see how this can be a great resource for actors?
Other Helpful Actor Resources
Incredible interviews with incredible industry professionals. If you enjoy listening to long form conversations with Oscar and Emmy award winners, you need to subscribe to this YouTube channel. You do not need to be a SAG-AFTRA member to see the videos!
I haven't listened to very many acting podcasts but from the moment I heard the first episode of Audrey Helps Actors, I binged the entire first two seasons. Audrey does a great job of inspiring actors to step up their game and level up in their careers.
Another excellent acting podcast, this one brought to you by Sam Valentine. Sam shares so much great industry content between her podcast, blog, email newsletter, Instagram, and now e-book (linked above). Check her out. You might learn a thing or ten.
Alison Haselden has a great personal story of starting off as a child actor, leaving the industry, and then finding it again many years later. Also, Alison is based in Atlanta, as are many of her guests. So if you are one of the many people considering moving to Atlanta for your career, listen up!
Talent Managers for Actors is a Facebook group started by former Hollywood talent manager Wendy Alane Wright. This is an incredibly supportive community of working actors, agents, managers, teachers, and other industry professionals.
The Approach is another valuable Facebook group for actors started by working actor and coach Alex Collins. The group was created to be a support system because "climbing the industry mountain" cannot be done alone.
Actors are always looking for scripts to practice with. The Internet Movie Script Database is a treasure trove of full length movie scripts spanning every genre and every era. Study these scripts and study them well. Who knows, you may be working with one of the writers in the future.
Learn the Audition Process of a Working Actor
KURT'S FREE AUDITION CHEAT SHEET: Take your film and TV auditions to the next level. Learn the audition techniques I've used to help me book over 50 movies and television shows.