Books can be very useful in the Mount&Blade series. Their primary purpose is to give boosts to your skills or attributes without having to level up. You can purchase them from Book Merchants, found in taverns.
Reference books provide the bonus by simply being in your inventory. You do not have to read them, but losing the book will result in losing the bonus.
Other books must be read, but the bonus is permanent. In order to read a book, go to the camp menu and choose "take an action". From there, there is an option to "select a book to read". Choosing that will allow you to pick one of the books in your inventory to read. From then on until you finish the book or switch books, you will slowly read the book while camping or staying at a town or village. Once the book is finished, you will receive a boost to a certain skill or attribute. These types of books require approximately 143 hours to read.
Bonuses can't pass the 10 level limit of skills, so make sure you only level up to 9 in the skills for books you intend to read or keep as reference.
Bonuses of reference books don't stack and you can only read each book type once, although if you import a character who has read a book in a previous game, you can re-read the same book again in the new game.
It is important to remember that books can be taken from you if you lose a battle, and that they can never be replaced if this happens. The only way to get a book back is if more than one copy existed at the beginning of the game (by starting as a University Student), if more than one Book Merchant has a copy of that book, or you may fight the party that took your book.
Book Merchants are educated men peddling books for those who wish to better themselves. You can find them in taverns. Books are expensive, but often well worth the benefit. Their inventories never update and are persistent with each individual merchant.
With Fire & SwordEdit
In With Fire & Sword, books are almost exactly the same, but most have different names. They increase the same skill sets, and are sold from the same book merchants. The names of the authors, based on real people, were also added. Note that the authors listed in the table below are the ones given in the game and are accurate. While other books with similar names may have been written by other authors (such as The Art of War by Sun Tzu), their works are not featured in With Fire & Sword.
|Book||Author||Required Int||Bonus||Bonus Type|
| Maxims of State||Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu||7||+1 Leadership||Permanent|
| Rhetoric of Philipp Melanchthon||Philipp Melanchthon||8||+1 Persuasion||Permanent|
| On the Art of Fighting with Swords||Antonio Lovino||9||+1 Weapon Master||Permanent|
| De Re Militari||Vegetius||9||+1 Tactics||Permanent|
| A Grammatical Outline of the Russian Language||Juraj Krizanic||10||+1 Intelligence||Permanent|
| A Discourse of Trade from England unto the East Indies||Thomas Mun||11||+1 Trade||Permanent|
| Geometry||Rene Descartes||12||+1 Engineer||Permanent|
| Art of War||Niccolo Machiavelli||-||+1 Trainer||Inventory|
| Healing||Adam Olearius||-||+1 Wound Treatment||Inventory|
| On Surgery and Instruments||Abu al-Kasim||-||+1 Surgery||Inventory|