The Best Books on Improv

For Stage & For Life.

A growing and curated list of books about improvisation, creativity, and the power of positivity.

Newest Additions

Improvise Freely

by Patti Stiles

Having trained under Keith Johnston himself, Stiles has a unique understanding of the history of improv as we know it. She's also one of the worlds best improv teachers and directors.

Her understanding of Johnstone's philosophical approach to improv shine through in this book. It's a great resource for anyone looking to unlock creativity on stage and off.

Books To Help You Learn Improv

Perfect for people looking to hone their craft.


by Keith Johnstone

From the creator of Theatresports, this book is now required reading for aspiring and professional improvisors alike. 

Johnstone teaches techniques that will help remove the inhibitions that stop us from performing at our best. This book is especially good for teachers and people with theatre backgrounds. The chapter on masks is interesting, but could be skipped if that's not what you're into. 


by Mick Napier

From the renowned founder of Chicago's Annoyance Theater and a veteran Second City director, Napier has written a book for people that know (and love) improv. 

It's a hands-on guide that will help you create better scenes and have you thinking about improv in a completely different way. Napier is one of the premier improv teachers, so it's no wonder his book is equally well regarded.

Truth In Comedy

by Charna Halpern, Del Close, & Kim Johnson

Halpern and Close have taught some of the biggest names in comedy. So, when they lay out the techniques they taught that made those people so funny, it's worth listening. 

A great book for beginners and novices of improv, it will also teach you, step-by-step, how to perform the 'Harold' and give you techniques you can use for performances for years to come. 

Free Play

by Stephen Nachmanovitch

If you're willing to go a little deeper, and peel back the layers of what makes improv so much fun, this book is a great option. 

Nachmanovitch explores the inner sources of spontaneous creation and picks apart where art, in the widest sense, comes from. His discussion about the flow of unhindered creative energy will help release you next time you hit the stage.

Comedy Improvisation Manual

by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, & Matt Walsh

The UCB is a household name in improv circles for a reason. This book explains their style of improv and is an awesome recourse for new performers or veterans looking for a new lens to look through. 

Great for sketch writers as well, the authors have provided ample exercises to practice, but more importantly the "how" and the "why" of their improv theories. 

The Improv Handbook

by Tom Salinsky & Deborah Frances-White

Written by the co-founders of The Spontaneity Shop in London, this book is an excellent guide for those looking to teach improv and lead workshops.  

The book also includes a brief history of improv and some interesting interviews with ten leading international improvisers. 

How To Be The Greatest Improvisor On Earth

by Will Hines

Hines is known for being one of the best improv teachers on earth, so the book's claim is right on point.  

This book is especially good at helping through the internal struggles of doing improv and could be the intellectual push you need to get over a performance hump.

Understanding Comics

by Scott McCloud

At first glance, this book might seem like an odd fit for a list of improv books, but McCloud's work shows the value of storytelling and how to do it well. 

Of particular interest is the understanding to be gained about what the audience already knows and how they connect ideas automatically. A fun, worthwhile, read. 

Improv Beyond Rules

by Adam Meggido

Meggido is undoubtedly one of the worlds best at his craft. He thinks improvisation on a different level than anyone I've ever met, and his book proves it.

An excellent book to learn long-form and narrative theatre improvisation, Meddigo has solidified himself as one of a new generation of improv authorities.

Books to Improv(e) Your Life

Great books for understanding the applications of improv beyond the stage

Improv Your Life

by Pippa Evans

Written by one of the best performers I've personally ever seen, this book really could change your life. Evans has provided an easy to read book packed with real world applications of improv.

This book is wonderful for people with, or without, a theatre/comedy background. It will prepare you for lifes many twists and turns while building your mental flexibility and adaptability – skills essential to living a happier life.

The Art of Making Sh!t Up

by Norm Laviolette

Using unique comedy-inspired training programs, Laviolette has been a successful performer and presenter for years. His book aims to make you more productive, more accepting, and more "all in" 

You'll learn how to remove the fear of failure that can paralyze many of us at work, and how to listen to other people and the surrounding environment to spark great ideas. 

Getting to "Yes, And"

by Bob Kulhan

At its core, improv is about collaboration and mental agility – two skills that happened to be in high demand in ever changing workplaces. 

Kulhan's book uses cognitive and social psychology, behavioral economics, and communication alongside improv to teach meaningful skills you can use to increase your productivity and advance your career.

Improv Wisdom

by Patricia Ryan Madson

Drama teacher turned self-help advisor Madson gives you an invitation to take life less seriously. She offers thirteen maxims to guide the fledgling improviser with plenty of practical examples and stories throughout. 

The pages are full of helpful techniques on enhancing spontaneity in everyday life and embracing improv as part of your everyday life.


by Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi

Psychologist and distinguished professor, Csikszentmihalyi has done pioneering work on the state of consciousness called flow - the feeling of complete engagement in a creative or playful activity.

Improv, and activities like it, can help all of us to understand what makes for an optimal experience and can lead us to a better understanding of our own productivity and happiness.


by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In a follow up to his groundbreaking work, Csikszentmihalyi focuses his lens sharply on creativity. 

He explains why creativity needs to be cultivated and developed in each of us and discovers the underlying principles and traits of creativity that could lead you to a better understanding of your own ideas. 

The Happiness Advantage

by Shawn Achor

One of the world’s leading experts on happiness, success, and potential Achor does an excellent job explaining how happiness leads to success and not the other way around. 

The book is filled with fascinating studies in the field of positive psychology. He also outlines seven principles that are crucial for living a happy and successful lifestyle. This book is as funny as it is life changing.

Life Unscripted

by Jeff Katzman & Dan O'Connor

Co-written by a doctor and a performer, this book gives a well rounded account for using practical self-help skills rooted in improv principles and depth psychology.

Their aim is to help readers live more authentic, fulfilled, and empowered lives by incorporating improvisational techniques into life's toughest moments. 

Humor, Seriously.

by Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas

A smart, funny, and well researched book on the power of humor. Loaded with practical examples of how humor can help you at work, in relationships, and more. 

A great book for people who think "I'm just not funny". Whole chapters are dedicated to breaking down jokes, what makes them funny, and when to use them to the greatest effect. Highly recommended. 

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