The municipal bond market is an arcane topic that receives little attention from the mainstream media or the academy (there are not many sources of complete information online, either). Fortunately there are several new muni books that are miles ahead of the thick tome that was previously lauded as the industry must-read: The Handbook of Municipal Bonds, part of the Frank Fabozzi series. Weighing in at over 900 pages, the Fabozzi book is best left for advanced muni market participants.
Written by Neil O’Hara for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Fundamentals is being used as the textbook for the “Muni Bond School” that SIFMA and the New York Municipal Bond Club are conducting now. It’s an excellent general primer on the market.
Longtime muni industry leader Robert Doty has authored a wonderful, visual primer on muniland that blends information about the bond types and pricing and trading conventions with notes on muni tax exemption and regulation. Doty’s book is geared toward investors. It’s colorful and a lovely size to hold in your hands (approx 8 in. by 12 in.). Its only drawback is that it is heavy on the Bloomberg terminal screenshots, which are only available to professional Bloomberg subscribers. Otherwise the book is a delight.
The king of muniland, Joe Mysak, has written the definitive glossary of municipal bond terms. This is not a compendium of quick answers about complex subjects. Mr. Mysak takes his time describing the generalized legal meaning of a term and then gives color on market background and practices. His definition of “escrowed to maturity” bonds, for example, is eight pages long. If you are going to work in muniland or self-direct your muni investments, this would be excellent reading and the perfect reference book with a long view.