For many people, options trading is a strange and mysterious investment practice. Fortunately, there are numerous educational books on the subject that demystify options and help traders profit from them. Here are five of the most notable titles:

"Option as a Strategic Investment," by Lawrence McMillan

Widely deemed the Bible of options trading, Lawrence McMillan’s 1980 classic, “Options as a Strategic Investment,” provides traders with practical option trading strategies designed to minimize risk and maximize profit potential. Its 1,000-plus pages contain information on specific options strategies and market conditions in which they tend to work best. The book dives deep into using options as a hedge and explains how tax laws apply to option trading profits or losses. McMillan also offers detailed advice on trading index options, trading options on futures, and measuring market volatility.

Key Takeaways

  • For many, options trading is a strange and mysterious investment practice.
  • The following four books teach ways investors may trade options profitably:
  1. "Option Volatility and Pricing," by Sheldon Natenberg 
  2. "Fundamentals of Futures and Options Markets," by John Hull 
  3. "Trading Options Greeks: How Time, Volatility, and Other Pricing Factors Drive Profits," by Dan Passarelli 
  4. "The Option Trader's Hedge Fund," by Mark Sebastian and Dennis Chen 

"Option Volatility and Pricing," by Sheldon Natenberg

Understanding how market volatility relates to options pricing is key to helping traders evaluate fair values in the options market. Sheldon Natenberg’s “Option Volatility and Pricing” provides a clear explanation of theoretical option pricing models, complete with examples of specific trading strategies that have shown historic profitability, in various market conditions. Natenberg's easy-to-follow descriptions help readers understand the key concepts involved in trading options, such as risk management, the relation of options to their underlying assets, volatility, and options pricing.

"Fundamentals of Futures and Options Markets," by John Hull

Options trading is particularly popular with traders who regularly trade the commodity futures markets. John Hull's "Fundamentals of Futures and Options Markets," which is considered a companion text to his book “Options, Futures and Other Derivatives,” offers a clear understanding of the futures and options trading markets. Widely recognized as an authority on derivatives, futures and risk management, Hull has served as a consultant to many of the best-known investment banking firms. Consequently, his book contains actionable information on swaps and other derivative instruments, trading interest rate futures and strategies for estimating the time value of options.

"Trading Options Greeks: How Time, Volatility, and Other Pricing Factors Drive Profits," by Dan Passarelli

To truly master options trading, one must cultivate a robust understanding of the “Greeks", which refer to the following Greek terms:

  • Delta -- option price movement in relation to underlying asset price movement
  • Theta -- the time value of options
  • Vega -- volatility-related option price changes
  • Rho -- option price movements caused by changes in the risk-free interest rate, commonly equated with the yield on U.S. Treasury bills

Passarelli's book explains the impact that each of these factors has on option values, and presents various option trading strategies that seek to profit from changes in any or all of the “Greeks.” This lets traders accurately evaluate option pricing and identify profit opportunities.

"The Option Trader's Hedge Fund," by Mark Sebastian and Dennis Chen

“The Option Trader’s Hedge Fund,” co-authored by options trading coach Mark Sebastian and hedge fund manager Dennis Chen, offers options traders a business model that can help them earn consistently profitable returns. The 2012 book provides a step-by-step primer for setting up a short option investment portfolio, designed to generate a steady income from selling, or writing, options.