I am about to start learning college level Economics and the two books that are commonly used are Intermediate Microeconomics by Hal Varian and Microeconomic Theory: Basic Principles and Extensions by Nicholson and Snyder.

I know for a fact that the Varian's book is used by almost everybody as their introduction to the subject. However, a quick glance makes me feel that the latter is more mathematically rigorous an has better problems (and by this, I do not mean the beginning chapter that teaches the mathematical pre-requisites).

Is Nicholson & Snyder actually more rigorous? How good will it be for someone who intends to make progress in the subject rather rapidly and explore the mathematics aspects of it in the long run? What am I going to miss and learn more by not doing the book by Varian?

  • $\begingroup$ I think NS is technically a bit more advanced compared to the intermediate Varian (probably not compared to the other Varian book: "Microeconomic Analysis"). Going over the table of contents, I think both cover more or less the same. It might be good to study both at the same time. Having two (overlapping) explanations of the same topic usually gives more insights than focussing on a single book. $\endgroup$
    – tdm
    Jun 3, 2021 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ @tdm I think that's precisely the case. Thank you for the comment. $\endgroup$
    – NSvsV
    Jun 3, 2021 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


Both are excellent choices as intermediate level textbooks. I'd suggest, rather than sticking to one and only one of these two, you should consider using both of them simultaneously. There are certain topics which have better exposition in Varian, whereas there are others which are better dealt with in Nicholson and Snyder. I have always felt that topics like General Equilibrium and Imperfect Competition have a much superior presentation in Nicholson and Snyder. While Varian is better for rudimentary topics like Utility, Preferences, Production, Uncertainty, etc.

Secondly, neither of the two books has a good coverage of Game Theory, or Mathematical methods. I would suggest using a combination of textbooks: 2 for micro theory, 1 for mathematical methods (AC Chiang is the best source, imo), and one for Game Theory (Either Gibbons or Osbourne).


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