Understanding where salsa music comes from, I feel, should be an important part of any serious salsa dancer's training.
Below are a list of some of the books I have read about the history of salsa music. Please note, that as far as I know, there is very little information available about the history of the dancing itself (please let me know if you know otherwise.)
Most of the books tell largely the same story. The differences are mostly how they are presented.
I have found all of the below books on amazon.com. I am sure they can be found in many other places as well.
"Salsa: Musical Heartbeat of Latin America"
or "Musica : The Rhythm of Latin America : Salsa, Rumba, Merengue, and
by Sue Steward
Colorful, with some photos. Traces the story of salsa. I have just skimmed the book. Looks very good.
"Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution
of Salsa in New York City"
by Vernon W. Boggs
This book takes a more academic approach and is made up of articles from various authors. Includes information about the famous dance clubs in New York City in the 60's.
"Salsa!: Havana Heat, Bronx Beat" by Hernando Calvo Ospina
An easy read, telling the history of salsa by relating various peoples' stories.
"World Music" by The Rough Guide. Now in a separate book called, "The Rough Guide to World Music : Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific (Rough Guide Reference Series)
I like this book because I can quickly find out about music from all over the world. It contains a few chapters of the history of salsa music, and I feel it does just about as good as job as the other books.
"Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae" by Peter Manuel
I read a while ago. From what I remember it had a lot of good information explaining the history of salsa and contained some strong opinions that resonated with me.
"Salsa! The Rhythm of Latin Music" by Charley
Gerard with Marty Sheller
Comes with CD
This book focuses on explaining the basic rhythm's of salsa and other latin music. Some knowledge of reading music is needed. Also explains where these rhythm's come from. Very recommended if you want to understand the music itself.
"The Official Descarga Latin Music Guidebook: 2001"
This is not really a book. Instead it is a catolog of Descarga's (descarga.com) products. Descarga is the largest mail order company for tropical music. For me, this book is a reference guide, in fact a type of bible for all the CD's for all the salsa artists. It lists each salsa artist's CD's and the songs on all of them and the copyright year of the CD. I suppose this catolog is not as useful now as it was before the availibity of the web, but I still say it's worth having.