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15 Best Books On Game Theory

Game theory is a popular topic, the concept of which plays an integral part in economics and mathematics. It is the study about how two rational parties interact and strategize in a particular decision-making situation. Most people referred to it as zero-sum games earlier, which implied a situation where one party gains at the expense of the other party’s loss. Investopedia.com explains the concept of the zero-sum game in a very easy-to-understand manner.

Nowadays, people understand “game theory” as a general term that explains the way humans, animals, and computers engage in logical decision-making. For a better understanding of what game theory is all about, head over to its wiki page. Here are the best game theory books available in the market today and a brief review of the said books:

1. The Art of Strategy (By Avinash K. Dixit, Barry J. Nalebuff)

This excellent book by Dixit and Nalebuff has set itself apart by being extraordinarily engaging and relevant even for daily decision-making situations. The Art of Strategy gives a person unparalleled tips and advice on how to know and react to the next move of an opponent.

Once a person realizes that many of the interactions in daily life, be it business-related or personal, have the component of game theory and learns to control the situation according to their advantage, they will become very successful in life.

Review:  The Art of Strategy engages its readers right from the start. It gives a lot of examples that are relevant in today’s world and also includes classic examples to explain situations and decisions further. It is the ideal book for beginners and those who do not have prior knowledge about game theory.

A minor problem with this book is that it is rather long for those who do not have a habit of reading. Some concepts may seem a tad too technical.

  • Author: Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff
  • Pages: 512 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 4, 2010, first published in 1991)

2. Strategy: An Introduction to Game Theory (Joel Watson)

Written by Joel Watson, the book attempts at making the basics of game theory extremely student-friendly. It is an ideal book for beginners. The revised edition has exercises along with the solutions and includes material for political economists and scientists.

Review: The casual style of language that Watson uses in this book makes it very engaging for young readers and has ample examples that will help experts in their respective fields. However, some cases with three players may need more explanation.

  • Author: Joel Watson
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 30, 2007)

3. Introducing Game Theory: A Graphic Guide (Dr. Ivan Patine, Dr. Tuvana Patine)

With beautiful and apt illustrations by Tom Humberstone, this graphic guide book on game theory helps the readers to understand situations where a player’s decision will affect the other player’s choice. 

It teaches the readers that game theory is about changing one’s decision according to the choice of other players in a given situation.

Review: The relevant and straightforward examples, along with funny and appropriate illustrations, help the readers to understand the basics of game theory. It does not beat around the bush and to the point without wasting the reader’s time. Although it is simple, it might be a little too undetailed for people who want a more in-depth discussion about game theory.

  • Author: Dr. Ivan Patine, Dr. Tuvana Patine
  • Pages:  176 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books (April 18, 2017)

4. Behavioral Game Theory: Experiments in Strategic Interaction (Colin F. Camerer)

This book by Camerer sets itself apart from the other books by blending experimental evidence, psychology with normal strategic behavior, and adding mathematical theory into the equation. If a person wants a detailed understanding of the workings of strategic thinking, this book is the way to go.

Review: Behavioral Game Theory has one of the best quality information and explanation in the market for game theory. But it does not stand as a good option for beginners.

  • Author: Colin F. Camerer
  • Pages: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 28, 2003)

5. 4th Edition of Games of Strategy (Avinash K. Dixit, Susan Skeath, David H. Reiley)

This book aims at refining the reader’s expertise and knowledge on playing the games of life using game theory concepts. A person will learn how to interact and deal with real-life decision-making situations so that both parties leave with the best possible outcome.

Review: The contents of this book clearly explains the concepts of game theory and helps students to get a better understanding of the use of game theory in economics. Even though it has a lot of useful information to share, the price of the book is quite high and has too many pages as compared to other books with similar content.

  • Author: Avinash K. Dixit, Susan Skeath, David H. Reiley
  • Pages:  768 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (December 30, 2014)

6. Game Theory 101: The Complete Textbook (William Spaniel)

The Complete Textbook by William Spaniel starts with a simple introduction and moves on to the concept and examples of the strategic form of game theory with its solutions. Then it dives into more complicated concepts of extensive-form games known as a game tree. This form also comes with a set of examples and solutions.

Review: This book is ideal for those who want a basic idea of all the concepts of game theory. It includes personal situations as examples, as well as real-life, large scale examples where the concept of game theory plays a significant role. Some of the cases are valid but repetitive, and the printers did not print the tables clear enough.

  • Author: William Spaniel
  • Pages:  276 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 3, 2011)

7. The infinite game (Simon Sinek)

This book teaches its readers about the difference between finite and infinite games. Finite games have fixed rules and predictable outcomes, but infinite games are much more unpredictable. There is no definite winner in infinite games, unlike clear winners and losers in finite games.

In infinite games, one party will be ahead, and one party behind. This book tells us how to be ahead of others in an infinite game situation.

Review: Learning the difference between finite and infinite games in real life helps a person to know how to deal with different situations appropriately. The book may sound a little repetitive after a certain point, even though it may be giving valid explanations and examples.

  • Author: Simon Sinek
  • Pages:  253 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (October 15, 2019)

8. Prisoner’s Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory, and the Puzzle of the Bomb (William Poundstone)

Prisoner’s Dilemma by Wiliam Poundstone talks about how two people may opt to engage in the betrayal of the common good for their gain and advantage. It talks about the concept of game theory, its origin, John Von Neumann, and also the Cold War.

Review: It is a comprehensive approach to game theory, the leading minds behind it, and also its use in the history of the world. It is the best book that masterfully weaves game theory, history, and examples together. The author does not fill this book with new information that an expert on this study can take away.

  • Author: William Poundstone
  • Pages:  294 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (First Edition, January 1, 1993)

9. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Game Theory (Edward C. Rosenthal)

This book is an excellent option for those who have no prior knowledge of game theory and its concepts. It gives easy examples with illustrations so that readers can easily understand and learn the basics of game theory.

Review: It contains clear and applicable examples and illustrations to understand game theory. However, the formulas within this book go without explanation.

  • Author: Edward C. Rosenthal, Ph. D
  • Pages:  381 pages
  • Publisher: Alpha (March 1, 2011)

10. The Joy of Game Theory (Presh Talwalkar)

The Joy of Game Theory contains the best articles from the blog Mind Your Decisions. The author includes many explanations of game theory in the second edition of the book and also delivers the suggestions of readers of the first edition.

This book will help its reader to understand the basic concepts of game theory and strategic games. It can help a person to make better decisions and negotiate in a better and more favorable manner than before.

Review: Many readers of this book like and recommend it because it is easy to read and an excellent introduction to the vast world of game theory. No matter what level of expertise a person has on this topic before reading The Joy of Game Theory, everyone can learn something from it after reading.

A problem that some readers had with this book was the grammatical errors and lack of proofreading. It does not have the details a more experienced reader would want.

  • Author: Presh Talwalkar
  • Pages:  154 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 10, 2013)

11. Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction (Morton D. Davis)

The book starts with a brief overview of game theory and John Von Neumann. Then it goes into zero-sum games with two persons and the equilibrium points. It poses some questions and allows the reader to attempt at solving it before moving on to the next topic.

Review: This book nails its examples by making them very nontechnical and easy to grasp. However, most of these examples were not very relevant or necessary.

  • Author: Morton D. Davis
  • Pages:  288 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (July 1, 1997)

12. Game Theory (Drew Fudenberg, Jean Tirole)

This book is a more advanced approach to the concepts of game theory. It includes discussions about strategic form games and Nash Equilibrium. However, the book uses simple explanations and examples to illustrate these topics.

Reviews: The book is very relevant for finance students, as the examples it uses are ideal for financial problems and situations. But the topics may be a bit advanced for beginners and other readers who did not have prior knowledge about game theory.

  • Author: Drew Fudenberg, Jean Tirole
  • Pages: 604 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 1991)

13. A Course in Game Theory (Martin J. Osborne, Ariel Rubinstein)

Another book for advanced undergraduates and graduates, A Course In Game Theory focuses on the foundation of the theory and its concepts. It helps a reader to understand extensive games with and without perfect information.

Reviews: The diagrams for some specific games help in explaining the concepts well but can appear a little dense for beginner readers.

  • Author: Martin J. Osborne and Ariel Rubinstein
  • Pages: 368 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (September 5, 1994)

14. Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life (Len Fisher)

This book takes the reader on an adventurous ride with many examples of the application of game theory that a person faces every day. It not only explains the concepts and basics of game theory but also includes a dash of fun and entertainment.

Review: Although the book has excellent examples that every reader can relate to, it does not explain the concepts of game theory in complete detail.

  • Author: Len Fisher
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (November 4, 2008)

15. Game Theory for Applied Economics (Robert Gibbons)

As the name suggests, this book presents to its readers, one of the most essential and useful tools for economics in the modern world. It goes into an in-depth and detailed discussion about game theory and includes the process of model building, turning a situation involving multiple persons into a single understandable game.

Review: The book is an excellent introduction to applying game theory concepts into economics. The level of expertise a person will need to have on game theory is high.

  • Author: Robert Gibbons
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 13, 1992)

Game theory is a fascinating topic and very useful, even in everyday life situations. With this recommended list, readers can look through books varying in complexity and suitability.

Want to read more books? Consider checking out these book recommendations:

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