I can't recommend any books, but the series on TV recently has an accompanying book, very sumptuous (the one presented by the architect whose family had lived in Venice for several centuries... it's "Francesco's Venice" by Francesco da Mosto - just search for Venice on Amazon and it's number 2.
We did a couple of day trips via Ryanair - birthday treat last year and the year before. The 6.30 from Stanstead was hard work, the 30 mile bus trip from Treviso to Venice was ok, but the 8 hours in the 16th Century for 20 quid each was fabulous! In fact ryanair.com is advertising Venice at 1.99 plus taxes at the moment, I must go and see...
And if you pop along to City Hall to the exhibition of Earth from the Air (see related thread on the othe discussion), you may see this picture, about 12 feet wide, which you can spend the afternoon gazing at (or go to http://www.yannarthusbertrand.com/yann2/ click on the green photo, then choose Italy and the second picture to download it for yourself)
Ahhh, memories. and one of the few photos I took that came out ok:
The DHL-branded express parcels delivery gondola was very impressive too...
Ahhhh...Venice. The Professor and I spent half a year there when he was teaching at the University during a sabbatical. I've always said it's the most beautiful place on earth and nothing happened during that time to change my mind...I've been back and back during forty five years and never been disappointed.
Not a history book at all, but a terrific read: "The Floating Book" by Michelle Lovric. It really brings out the atmosphere of old Venice - I was gripped, and a friend read it while on holiday in Venice, and was equally mad about it!
I'd second the recommendation of Jan Morris' Venice,. It remains great writing 40 years after publication.
Even more "highbrow", but really useful background before any visit to half-seriously look at the buildings is James Lees-Milne's Venetian Evenings (1988) - now out-of-print, but local libraries may have copies.
I would like to suggest you to take a look to the website of a publishing house I used to work with. they are publishing books on Venice architecture and history. some of them are more touristic oriented, some other are for more spcific interested readers. The site is www.vianellolibri.com (click on the english flag for the English side of the site). Hoping this will help you.