Book Review: An Introduction to Game Theory by Steve Tadelis

I’ve been reading a lot about game theory lately. Partly because I have an interest in games as a way to understand aggregate behavior, but also I just think it’s an interesting subject in its own right.

One of the better books I’ve read so far is Tadelis’s undergrad textbook. It’s not very mathematically difficult, reducing most problems down to very basic calculus or probability calculations without many proofs, but it’s probably one of the better textbooks I’ve read in a long time in terms of motivation. I’ve read pop-math books on game theory that explained the philosophic assumptions with only a fraction of the clarity.

In particular, the first half of the book rather meticulously lays out the different ideas of rationality and equilibrium under consideration and examines simple games in terms of them. It starts from more obvious ideas like “if there is a strictly best possible strategy for all cases, a rational player will choose it” which only leads to stable strategies in a small number of cases and refines what counts as rational until you get more well known equilibria concepts such as Nash equilibrium and subgame perfect equilibrium.

So I’d recommend this book if you have any real interest in game theory at all. It’s a pretty light and breezy text and the exercises, at least all the ones I did, were structured to be very leading towards to the lesson they were trying to impart. I think in terms of time commitment if you’re comfortable with calculus and probability densities then each chapter, with most of its exercises, will probably only take about an hour each.

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