Confession time. I love self help books. I’m aware the industry is making a mint off my insecurity, but guess what, they can take my money. Self help books have one aim: to help. They are scoffed at, jeered and derided, but for me they represent what philosophy was intended to be: practical ideas and methodologies to help lead a better life. They don’t care that they are sometimes a little lame, and I love it. Self help books are especially valuable for actors.
I think actors can benefit from self help books for two reasons:
#1 Being a better person makes you a better actor. The more grounded and content you are in your personal life, the better you are as an actor. We’re often sold the starving artist myth, but depression and anxiety are debilitating, not romantic.
#2 Being a better person will get you gigs. Being open, confident and a good communicator will definitely help your acting career. How you walk into audition rooms, turning up to auditions ON TIME, communicating effectively with your agent, these are a few examples of where the admin of being an actor is as important as the acting itself.
So here are my favourite self help books for actors
#1 Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R Covey)
Reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was the first time I tasted the sweet nectar of self help. It was where the addiction all began.
A lot of what this book discusses is common sense, practical advice to make you an all round better person. Its title sounds like a business book, and in some ways it is, but every aspect of it can be applied to acting. Being an actor is being a small business.
This book isn’t offering things you haven’t seen before in inspiration quotes on Instagram, but its straightforward approach and practical tips will definitely help you on your journey to become a better person.
Step 1. Be proactive
Step 2. Begin with the End in Mind
Step 3. Put First Things First
Step 4. Think Win-Win
Step 5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Step 6. Synergize
Step 7. Sharpen the Saw
These 7 steps could easily be the chapter titles of “How to be a successful working actor”. Definitely give this book a read!
#2 The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson)
The title says it all. We actors can’t help but give a f*ck. We want casting directors to audition us, we want agents to sign us, we want actors to think we’re incredible, directors to give us the biggest parts. We do it all because we give a f*ck.
The problem with that is that it stinks of desperation and desperation makes for bad acting. It makes our auditions and our work safe and stops us following our instincts.
Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck has taken the world by storm. It’s a straight-talking and eye opening read about making sure you don’t waste energy on the things that don’t matter, so you can focus on the things that do.
The book is a must read for actors. Especially those struggling with rejection and jealously. So every actor.
#3 How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
How to Win Friends and Influence People is the classic self help book. And one most people only read in private. The title sounds so desperate and disingenuous. That being said, it has some pearls.
It’s principles and ideas still resonate more than 80 years since it was written. It offers some great ideas for actors. Most notably – people love the sound of their own name! Get good at learning actors, directors and producers names, they love it. Plenty more in this book to help you navigate those uncomfortable open night foyers.
#4 The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle)
I could go on and on about The Power of Now. Instead I will say this: just read this book. One of the most important books I have ever read.
Put simply: live in the moment.
Your thoughts, your ego, your emotions, they are all running your life. You’re not living in the moment and you’re definitely not living in the moment on stage or on screen. You’re thinking about what the director thinks of your performance, or asking yourself why that lady in the backrow just yawned. This constant self talk erodes the quality of our acting.
All the most common acting problems from over gesturing, physical tension, vocal issues, line droop, being off voice, all come from us being afraid to live in the moment.
This book has had a profound impact on my acting. Actively listening to the other actor, and truly being in a scene, is what exciting acting is built on.
One of our writers loved this book so much the wrote an article about living in the moment on stage.
If you are looking for more great book on acting check out: Best Acting Books