These titles are Ed's "recom-mended reading" and are good candidates for your core actor's library. To order any of these books – or just to learn more – click on the cover image.

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Respect for Acting

Uta Hagen

John Wiley & Sons, 2008

(reprint of 1973 edition)

Sanford Meisner on Acting

Sanford Meisner

Vintage Books, 1987




A Challenge for the Actor

Uta Hagen

Scribner, 1991

Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the 21st Century

Sharon M. Carnicke

Routledge Theatre Classics, 2008

The Secrets of Screen Acting, 3d ed.

Patrick Tucker

Routledge (Theatre Arts Book) 2014

This is my personal favorite of the “acting for camera” books and is one I routinely recommend to my students. It is written with humor and perception by a British director/teacher. His basic perspective is that you must make your performance the right size for the frame of the shot. In other words, your technique is different in a long shot than in a close-up. He's correct about that. Lots of drawings in the book, too.

On the Technique of Acting

Michael Chekhov

Harper Perennial, 1993

Michael Chekhov was the nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov and a student of Constantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre. He eventually differed with his mentor on how best to approach acting. Stanislavsky believed that memory was the key and Chekhov thought it was imagination. He is probably best known as the the teacher who codified the “psychological gesture.”

Acting: The First Six Lessons

Richard Boleslavsky

Literary Licensing LLC, 2011

First published in 1933, this slender book distills essential acting theory down to six comprehensible lessons. There may be an actor or acting teacher somewhere who does not have this book nearby. Important and influential.

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

Keith Johnstone

Routledge, 1987

Johnstone bases his improvisations on "status transactions,” a truly remarkable concept that greatly rewards exploration. Again, I consider this a must-read and routinely recommend it to my acting students.


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Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part

Michael Shurtleff

Walker & Company, 2003

The Empty Space

Peter Brook

Touchstone, 1995

The Open Door

Peter Brook

Anchor, 2005

Between Two Silences

Peter Brook

SMU Press, 1999

The Shifting Point

Peter Brook

Theatre Communications Group, 1994

In this volume Peter Brook is in dialogue with college students and faculty. Theatre professor Dale Moffitt has edited and arranged by subject twelve hours of spontaneous question and answer sessions from Brook's visit to the Southern Methodist University campus. Ranging widely over many topics, Brook talks about his innovative and award-winning production of Marat/Sade, his film and stage versions of King Lear, his nine-hour production of the Indian epic, The Mahabharata. With passion and clarity he discusses acting, directing, auditions, film vs. the stage, his responses to the work of other theatre figures like Grotowski and Artaud, and the multiculturalism which characterizes his most recent work.

Pinter at Sixty

Kathrine H. Burkman & John L. Kundert-Gibbs

Indiana University Press, 1993

A collection of essays about Pinter, his work, the acting of his plays, etc., by an assortment of scholars. And at last, here's a book that will help you understand his famous “silences” and “pauses.”

The Actor's Chekhov

Jean Hackett

Smith and Kraus, 1993

Mainly interviews with talented actors at the Williamstown Theatre Festival who have made it their business to play a lot of Chekhov. The late Nikos Psacharopoulos, former head of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Williamstown, was an acknowledged expert on acting Chekhov.

Playing Shakespeare: An Actor’s Guide

John Barton

Methuen, 2011

A companion to a fabulous BBC television series of the same name (see next). It is by far the best text I've seen on how to act Shakespeare.



Playing Shakespeare (DVD)

Athena, 2009

The 1983 acting workshops upon which John Barton’s book is based. Includes Oscar winners Dame Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley and Peggy Ashcroft, along with Sir Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and David Suchet.

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Harold Bloom

Riverhead, 1998

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, Berg Professor of English at New York University, and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. He is a renowned Shakespearean scholar and teacher, and this book is essential for your personal library. It's not the kind of book you read cover-to-cover in one sitting - though I suppose you could - but rather one to turn to when you are looking for perspectives on a Shakespeare play. (I regularly refer to it when students are putting up Shakespearean scenes.) Professor Bloom's references and ideas are stimulating, original and challenging. I adore this book and recommend it highly.

The Fervent Years: The Group Theatre and the Thirties

Harold Clurman

Da Capo Press, 1983

The Group Theatre was the breeding ground for Lee Strasberg’s “Method” acting, and it is a key link in the evolution of theatre in the United States. Harold Clurman was a prominent director with the Group Theatre, and his first-person account of the events and their participants is essential for any serious theatre student.

Eleonora Duse: A Biography

Helen Sheehy

Knopf, 2003

Eleonora Duse was a self-taught Italian actress who was famous for how “natural” and truthful she appeared on stage. Hers was a revolutionary new style of acting, and her work was the inspiration for Stanislavsky. He wanted to understand how she was doing what she did, and Ms. Duse never talked about it. Stanislavsky began working with actors at the Moscow Art Theatre, and the rest – as they say – is history. Lovely biography, extremely well written.

Elia Kazan: A Life

Elia Kazan

Da Capo Press, 1997

This man was the director of choice for Broadway dramas in the 1940s and 1950s, and for dramatic movies such as On the Waterfront and East of Eden. It was Kazan who first directed the most important plays of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. He was a talented novelist as well. This is his autobiography, and it is the single best theatrical autobiography I have ever read. Highly recommended.



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