Spring Break and Game Theory Books

Well if you haven’t noticed, we haven’t uploaded a new episode in while.  Never fear, we haven’t fallen off of a cliff or anything (at least not physically).   We both hit our spring breaks and went into a deep couch-coma.

We’ve got a new episode recorded, that I’ll have edited and up on the site by tomorrow at the latest.

To tide you over I’ve compiled a list of Game Theory books that we love.  we’ve been getting a surprisingly large number of emails asking if Tom and I can recommend any great books on the subject.  Well, hell yes we can!

I’m gonna put them into a couple of categories.

Popular Books on Game Theory

OK, I’m going to be totally honest here.  I don’t usually like popular game theory books.  They come off as silly (often).  I know how that must sound coming from me of all people, but hey, that’s just the way it is.

However I DO like a lot of books that are implicitly game theoretic.  That is, they use game theoretic thinking without being all that clear about the fact that they are using the types of reasoning that is inherit to the subject.

Here we go:

The Armchair Economist by Steven Landsburg is just funny.  In fact, Landsburg is himself a game theorist and a rather accomplished one at that.  But, this book is all about everyday life and how economic reasoning (read: game theoretic reasoning) can help make sense of some of the big (well, small) questions we all have about day to day existence.

Landsburg went at it again with this book on more of the same subjects as his last.

Academic (ish) Books on Game Theory

My favorite is this one:

by Herbert Gintis.  It’s mostly just a huge collection of problems.  The only math you need is high school algebra for many of the problems, but having some calculus and linear algebra wouldn’t hurt.

by Philip Straffin.  This book is very introductory and has very little “math”.  It’s small and easy to read.  It’s the first game theory book I read, and it still holds up as a undergrad level intro.

Anatol Rapoport has made massive contributions to game theory in Political Science.  This book is a small intro book with a bit more math that Straffin’s book.  I found it helpful in my first term.

Maynard-Smith changed the face of evolutionary research by introducing the field to game theory.  This is book that did it.  It also serves as a great intro to people who aren’t as mathy.

Cool Books you Might Also Dig

Below are a couple books that you might be into.  They aren’t exactly intro books, but they aren’t “upper level” book either.  Instead they are speculative, or scientific, and approach the subject with a sense of possibility.

This book is about a totally new subject in the social sciences called “behavioral game theory” (which we’ll eventually do a podcast on).  It is not math, it is science.  Instead of looking at the theory of games and the consequences of that theory, they aim to test the theory.  They put people in rooms and actually have them play games and see what happens.  How closely to people stick to the strategies that game theory would predict them to use?  Very interesting!

This book is also by Herbert Gintis, and is a work of philosophy as much as it is a work of game theory.  He thesis is that game theory is to the social and behavioral sciences what calculus is to the physical sciences.  That is, this is his grand unifying theory of the behavioral sciences.  And I totally agree with him.  Read it, and be converted. :)

Author: Nick Horton

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2 Comments

  1. What about “Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays” by Berlekamp, Conway and Guy??

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  2. I read a book a while back, “On Games and Numbers”, it’s an oldy but goody. I should check out these listed recommendations, they would probably help with my future game projects.
    Speaking of game projects, I have a project that I just launched on Kickstarter.com
    It’s a new math-videogame I’ve been working on called “Cosmic Chain – the math game”.
    The project will run until Oct. 28, 2011. Check it out:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1034779699/cosmic-chain-the-math-game

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