#SummerHours Summer Reading: Books for Actors (That Have Nothing to Do with Acting)

Goodbye, winter caps—hello, summer hats! It’s that glorious time of year where many of us can switch from content creators to content consumers. NYWIFT members Mellini Kantayya and Kathryn O’Kane have put together #SummerHours, a series of fun summer books, movies, and TV shows by or about women.

By Mellini Kantayya

One wonderful aspect of being an actor is that learning is a continual, never-ending endeavor—and summer is a great time to sharpen, expand, and gain skills. Instead of the usual books on process and auditioning, here are two books that have nothing to with acting that I have found invaluable.


Mindfulness, by Ellen Langer: Ellen Langer is a social psychologist and the first female professor to receive tenure at Harvard University’s department of psychology. In Mindfulness, Langer makes her extensive research accessible to the lay reader. I first learned of Ellen Langer on the podcast On Being in 2015, which is shocking considering she’s been dubbed “the mother of mindfulness” and has authored 200 research articles and eleven books on the subject. Though being mindful, or in-the-moment, is the optimal state for an actor, the concept completely alluded me until I discovered Langer’s work. Previously, I saw mindfulness as a lofty (if not hippy-dippy) goal, achieved through hours of yoga, tai chi, meditation, and the like. Langer’s approach is elegant and easy: hone the simple act of noticing. That’s it.


Presence, by Amy Cuddy: Amy Cuddy is also a social psychologist and Harvard professor. Many will recognize her from her TED Talk on power-posing (watch and you’ll never hunch over your phone in an audition waiting room ever again). The talk outlines research on how our body language not only informs how other see us, but how we perceive ourselves and our overall outlook down to the cellular level. The book builds on those studies, and is aptly subtitled “bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges.” It illustrates research-back means to do just that. Among the takeaways are practical, science-based methods to boost confidence, be in an optimal state for performance, and quell those audition nerves.



(Cover photo by Bridgette Matthews)

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