There are networking books but networking is so complex that people specialize in just networking as a career.
If they are windows based machines all having thier own hard drive and Windows OS then the setup can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. I will give you basic instructions on how to do a basic easy network. First there are 2 kinds of networks you can build.
Static. Where you assign network addresses to each computer.
Dynamic (DHCP) where the network address is automatically assigned to each computer.
(An example of an address would be 192.168.1.1 this would normally be your routers address. You can have or change these numbers up to 255.255.255.255 but most people leave the numbers alone and dont mess with these settings in the router
For simplicity I will go with Dynamic. This allows you to let the computer do most of the work for you.
First get a router if you dont already have one. This device will assign network addresses to each computer on the system and also allow you to share the internet. If you are not using high speed internet you still use a router but you dont have to do the internet connection portion of the router setup.
Now all the computers on the system are on the same network as far as adresses are concearned. If you need to hook up more computers than you have ports on the router you can add in a switch. This is like a splitter for one of the connections on the router.
If you need all of the computers to talk to each other you will need to set up all the computers to be on the same Workgroup and allow file and printer sharing on each computer.
WIth XP you click start and then control panel. Look to the left of the window that pops up and make sure your on classic view. You should see see a network setup wizzard click that and follow through:
Using existing connection (normally)
Create a computer name (I leave the description blank but you might put something in for easy Identification of each machine)
Create a workgroup name. (MSHOME is default in XP. Change it to something you will remember)
Click the Turn on File and Print Sharing dot.
Windows will probably show you what you did.
Windows will configure your computer for the new settings and then ask if you want to create a network setup disk. I normall just click the dot next to "Just finish wizzard". When you finish the wizzard you will need to restart your computer. As you do this each computer should end up with a shared documents folder that you can see by clicking on start and then computer. To see the other computers shared folders you will need to go to Network places. Place any files you want to share in the computers shared folder and the other computers will be able to see the file by browsing the appropriate computers shared folder.
If you are using Vista then you go to: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Join-or-create-a-workgroup
and follwo the instructions there. If you have Windows 7 the instructions are almost the exact same as Vista.
There is a special network setup feature built into Windows 7 called homegroup but unless all of your computers Are Windows 7 and at least one is Windows 7 Pro you will want to do the above setup I started you with.
Hope this helps... Dale