Game theory analyzes human behavior in situations of two or more participants. In these situations, their reaction could either lead to reward or punishment, and each participant knows the so-called rules of the game. For instance, game theory would study chess, since each player’s moves consistently influence the other’s strategies. 

That said, game theory extends far past studying games. Game theory studies any situation where more than one participant controls the outcome. For instance, when multiple companies are competing against each other, one company’s actions will be influenced by the actions of the others. Although game theory cannot predict human behavior with 100% accuracy, as nothing can, it offers fascinating predictions and insight on human behavior. 

So, how do you go about learning game theory? We’ve gathered up the best books on game theory that can help you learn in this guide.

Best Books On Game Theory

Below are the top 9 books on game theory, all about strategic thinking and motivations for behavior in a competitive environment. 

1. Game Theory: An Introduction by Steven Tadelis 

Game Theory- An Introduction by Steven Tadelis

From an in-depth mathematical and analytical viewpoint, Steven Tadelis provides readers a fundamental introduction to game theory in Game Theory: An Introduction. Game theory is more prominent than many realize, arising in almost every human interaction. To gain insight into the principles and applications of game theory, this is the book for you.

Starting with a concise description of rational decision making, Tadelis later explains various form games with imperfect information. Covering a host of topics, such as bargaining theory and reputation building, is the perfect book to apply the fundamentals of game theory to real life.

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2. The Art of Strategy by Avinash Dixit

The Art of Strategy by Avinash Dixit

The Art of Strategy is the game theorist’s guide to success in both business and everyday life. Game theory is built off of rigorous strategic thinking, predicting how your rival will behave will help you stay ahead of the curve. This is precisely what Dixit prepares you for in The Art of Strategy.

If you’re looking for both practical insights and a fulfilling read, this book is the one for you. To predict your opponent’s next move and make the correct decision, no matter how counterintuitive, learn more about the art of strategic thinking. 

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3. The Joy of Game Theory by Presh Talwalkar 

The Joy of Game Theory by Presh Talwalkar

The Joy of Game Theory is an introduction to strategic thinking. This book is made up of a collection of columns from Game Theory Tuesdays, which has been praised by many, including CNN and Yahoo Finance. This book provides the reader with an in-depth study of interactive decision making and how to stay ahead of others.

With multiple columns and over 30 illustrations, The Joy of Game Theory will help you identify the endless applications of the theory and get excited about putting it to use. By the end, you’ll know how to recognize strategic games and make better decisions that lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.

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4. A Course in Game Theory by Martin J. Osborne and Ariel Rubinstein

A Course in Game Theory by Martin J. Osborne and Ariel Rubinstein

Created for graduate students and advanced undergraduate students, A Course in Game Theory presents the main ideas of game theory and interpretations of its most pressing topics. Completed with precise definitions and proven results, this book goes straight to the point, explaining how you can apply game theory and strategic thinking to your life.

Sacrificing generalities to make this book as concise as possible, Osborne and Rubinstein have created the all-in-one resource to understanding game theory. Organized with over 100 exercises and information on strategic and extensive games, this book will have you understanding and applying game theory in no time.

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5. Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff

Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff

Thinking Strategically has been created to help you gain a competitive edge in business, politics, and everyday life. Major best-seller and The Financial Times’ Top Ten book of the year, this book is the definitive crash course for applying game theory to out-win any rival. This entertaining guide provides case studies from movies, politics, sports, and more.

In this, Dixit and Nalebuff outline the basics of good strategy and then show you how you can apply them to everyday life. 

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6. Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Binmore

Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Binmore

According to Kenneth Binmore, games are everywhere. Whether you’re trying to navigate traffic with other cars or auctioning on eBay, we are always playing games with different opponents. Because of this, game theory applies to the majority of life situations. To tour the fascinating world of game theory, Kenneth Binmore offers this introduction on how to play games both rationally and strategically. 

A renowned game-theorist himself, Binmore explains game theory in a way that is not mathematical, but rather easy-to-navigate, motivating, and insightful. With case studies from the founders of the subject, you’ll be able to act rationally and strategically throughout your life after reading this book. 

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7. Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict by Roger Myerson

Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict by Roger Myerson

Perfect for both teacher instruction and individual study, Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict is the ideal introductory text on game theory. Myerson goes deep into game theory and its modern advances from the last 15 years, examining various models, solution concepts, and methodological principles.

To gain an overview of game and decision theory, this book is for you. It will help you understand the fundamentals and models of game theory, extensive form, strategic form, and Bayesian games with incomplete information.

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8. An Introduction to Game Theory by Martin J. Osborne 

An Introduction to Game Theory by Martin J. Osborne

This comprehensive introduction to game theory explains the theory’s main principles and how they can be used to understand economics, society, and politics. Rather than confusing jargon and complex mathematical expression, Osborne explains game theory in an accessible manner easy for any reader to grasp.

Covering strategic games, extensive games, and coalitional games, this book is perfect for any beginner looking to understand the more advanced subjects of game theory. With over 280 exercises and a wide variety of illustrations, this book makes the complex concepts of game theory more simple while maintaining accurate precision.

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9. Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction by Morton D. Davis

Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction by Morton D. Davis

Morton D. Davis provides a helpful introduction to understand the historical importance of game theory. Whether you’re looking to make better investment decisions or allocate business expenses more efficiently, the application of game theory can help. In this, Davis goes over two-person zero-sum games, the utility theory, and more.

With hypothetical interactive problems in the book, you’ll become familiarized with game theory and how to use it to become a better problem-solver. At the end of each chapter, readers can compare their solutions with those of the author, and improve along the way. 

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Final Thoughts: Best Books On Game Theory

All in all, game theory can be applied to financial, social, and political aspects of life. Having an in-depth understanding of game theory is beneficial for anyone, since games occur in almost every life situation. Reading up on game theory and understanding its applications can help you gain a competitive edge, anticipate competitors’ next moves, and act more rationally. 

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