A little off-topic, but I'm hearing good things about the book [google]Stomp and Swerve[/google], a history of American (in the sense of U.S.) music from--well, here this is simpler: [google]Stomp and Swerve[/google]
For a salsa history, I can recommend:
Cuban Fire by Isabelle Leymarie. Extremely well researched and structured. It does read a little bit like the Iliad i.e. it goes into a lot of detail about who played with whom and when.
For merengue, it has to be the one by Paul Austerlitz: Merengue - Domincan Music and Dominican Identity.
For an all-round overview on the functions of dance, I thought that Gerald Jonas wrote well, though the book I'm referring to is no longer in print (BBC press strikes again). I always find general reading of this sort helpful in situating my activites in context. Sometimes it's easy to see the tree and not the forest.
Another book for those of you who read German:
Arne Birkenstock & Eduardo Blumenstock: Salsa, Samba, Santería (comes with a music CD with 19 songs).
This book gives an overview of many types of Latin American music, their history and their countries of origin.
There are chapters about music in Mexico and Central America, in the Andes, in the southern countries of South America, protest and revolutionary songs (Mercedes Sosa, Violeta Parra), Santería, Brasil, Cuba, Salsa, Bolero, Tango and a final chapter with an overview of instruments and rhythm patterns. Very nice book!
You can find it at amazon dot de.
"Looking for La Bomba: The Cuban Adventures of a Musical Oaf" by Richard Neill. It's about a British guy, who is so dissatisfied with his comfortable but uninspiring life in London, that he decides to leave it all and go to Cuba to learn to play double bass and perform on stage with a Cuban Son Band.