1. "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" by Thomas L.  Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum 
I list Friedman's book first because it was instrumental in my creation of this website.  I have always had an interest in teaching and education (and was formerly a college math teacher).  But Friedman packs a powerful punch in the way he says that improving education is a necessary cornerstone of renewing our country's greatness.  Check out this comment from his book, about the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  (The underlining is mine.)
"In this century, education is the foundation of economic strength…  The Duke of Wellington…..once asserted that the Battle of Waterloo…..was won "on the playing fields of Eton," an exclusive British private school in which the nation's elite was trained.  In the same spirit, one could argue that (our) stability and prosperity…..will be maintained--or lost--in the classrooms of America's public schools."

Published in 2011, this book provides ample reason to regard improving our educational system as crucial to our individual and our collective well-being as a nation.  The stakes couldn't be higher.  And, Friedman makes clear, the time to act is now!
His other books are thought provoking, too, such as "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of The Twenty-First Century," "Hot, Flat and Crowded," and others.  Key to Friedman's writing is his frequent use of hard-hitting, down to earth analogies that make his point instantly clear. 

2. "The Dumbest Generation:  How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future" by Mark Bauerlein
Copyrighted in 2008, this book is an examination of the impact of the digital age on education, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture.  Bauerlein demonstrates in study after study, that although today's youth grew up with the internet and are facile in retrieving information, that hasn't translated into greater knowledge or better use of information.  On the contrary, they struggle to read and write as well as past generations and their analytic skills are weak. 
The picture of where the average student stands today, compared with past generations, is bleak, and Bauerlein sounds an alarm bell consistent with that of Tom Friedman and many of the other authors mentioned on this page.  He, too, says that improved training and education are needed to secure the future of this generation.  He cites an impressive array of studies to support his thesis that students today learn less, are not trained to deal with frustration and the discipline of ongoing hard work, and are thus not prepared to compete for the global marketplace jobs that are the current economic reality.