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The top 10 theatre books to read

10 great books about theatre to read at home

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

The theatrical world isn't just limited to what goes on behind the curtain. As well as getting your hands on the scripts of West End shows, there's plenty of opportunities to learn from theatrical predecessors and creative geniuses in our top pick of theatre books to read. Uncover the stage secrets of the most successful shows of all time or put pen to paper and create your own work to become the next great talent. 

Dear Audience
by Danny Kaan and Sophie Ross

Looking for that perfect coffee table book? Put this at the top of your pile. This theatrical textbook of sorts is filled with over 140 pages showcasing the West End's rich history. As well as exclusive imagery, personalised letters to audiences, there's contributions from hundreds of West End stars.

Click here to find out more.

Balancing Acts: Behind the Scenes at the National Theatre
by Nicholas Hytner

Hytner shares his fondest memories from his twelve-year tenure as the National Theatre's artistic director, explaining the decisions that changed public perception of seeing a show. Delving into his time in charge, Hytner reveals the secrets behind the great plays of the 21st century including One Man Two Guvnors and War Horse, as well as directing established stars of stage and screen including Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon.

Click here to find out more.

The Time Traveller's Guide to British Theatre
by Aleks Sierz and Lia Ghilardi 

Want to brush up on your theatre history? Navigate your way through the traditions of Elizabethan theatre, the art of restoration comedy and the beginnings of 'modern theatre' with this no-nonsense guide, celebrating over five centuries of those who have been performing on stages across Britain. From William Shakespeare to The Mousetrap and everything in between, uncover the theatrical secrets that still stand in London today, and load up with facts to impress your friends the next time you're in the stalls.

Click here to find out more.

State of the Nation: British Theatre from 1945
by Michael Billington

When you've been The Guardian's theatre critic for 48 years, you get to know a thing or two about theatre. Michael Billington's debut non-biographical book documents the lives of actors, writers and directors in post-war Britain, asking how political societies and theatre paralleled each other, and how creatives were moved by global events to inspire their actors, their audiences and future generations. 

Click here to find out more.

Finishing The Hat
by Stephen Sondheim

Not a summer goes by without a Stephen Sondheim musical staged either in the West End or Broadway, so get the lowdown on his biggest shows from the man himself. Having worked with Golden Age icons including Ethel Merman and Harold Prince, the multi-award-winning lyricist dissects songs from Gypsy and Sweeney Todd. There are previously unseen photographs from original productions too, to help illustrate how the art of songwriting comes to life.

Click here to find out more.

Unmasked
by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lifting the lid on a glittering career that's seen him win eight Olivier Awards including a lifetime achievement award, Andrew Lloyd Webber shares his success in his autobiography. Titled with a nod to The Phantom of the Opera, Lloyd Webber documents the childhood moments which inspired a future career working on shows including Cats, Evita and School of Rock. With his newest musical Cinderella set to make waves at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, now's the perfect time to understand the British theatrical legend.

Click here to find out more.

Musicals: The Illustrated Story
published by DK

Celebrate the magic of musical theatre as you flick through the pages of this guide, bursting with information on over 140 musicals. With a foreword by the Olivier Award-winning actress Elaine Paige, discover how theatre styles metamorphised into the art of musical theatre, what it took to put on movie musicals in 1950s Hollywood and how a theatre star is born.

Click here to find out more.

The 100 Most Important People in Musical Theatre
by Andy Propst

Ask your friends and family who the most important person in musical theatre is, and they'll probably all have different answers. Published last year, Propst's book countdowns 100 influential figures in musical theatre who have gone on to shape careers of future generations. From the performers, choreographers and directors who sent shockwaves through the industry, read about those who really left their mark. 

Click here to find out more. 

The Thespian's Bucket List: 1001 Stagey Things To Do Before Kicking The Bucket
by Stacy Karyn

Think you've seen it all at the theatre? Think again. Get started on 1,001 theatre-related activities with a guide to the musical movies and stagey television shows you need to watch, as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning plays you need to read. Become the ultimate theatre guru as you chart your progress and kickstart a lifetime of theatrical fun.

Click here to find out more.

The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction
by Erik Bork

According to Bork, there's a helpful acronym to remember when writing a story; there's a "PROBLEM". If you're writing the next Hamilton or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, discover how you can transform an idea into a cultural phenomenon with these seven simple steps to success, laid out by the multiple Emmy and Golden Globe-winning writer and producer.

Click here to find out more.

Stop the Show!: A History of Insane Incidents and Absurd Accidents in the Theater
by Brad Schreiber

Does the show always go on? From backstage blunders to falling scenery which wouldn't be out of place in The Play That Goes Wrong, read all about the mistakes that actors and directors have made behind-the-scenes, as well as the ill-mannered audience members that have ruined performances! There really is no business like showbusiness after all...

Click here to find out more.

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