978-0-553-41802-6By Andy Weir, author of The Martian: A Novel (Crown, February 2014)

When I wrote “The Martian,” I didn’t mean to craft a thriller that could double as a science textbook— but to some extent, that’s what happened.

The story revolves around a lone astronaut named Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars. He faces countless trials and tribulations in his increasingly desperate attempts to survive. As a science dork, I wanted to make sure everything in the book was as accurate as it could be. I wanted to back up Mark’s solutions with hard numbers. As a result, many parts of the book are basically deadly word problems based on what Mark must do to survive. His life becomes a series of challenges in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and math. (more…)

9780345514400North Bergen (NJ) High School teacher Laurie Troiano recently taught Maya Angelou’s beloved I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to her Junior Honors class–they finished the book on the same day that Dr. Angelou passed away.  Read the note that Ms. Troiano sent us below, which describes the impact that Dr. Angelou’s classic had on her students:

“There is nothing better than getting books in the mail. Thank you for the copy and guide of Caged Bird. I had a memorable moment this year with my North Bergen High School Junior Honors class. I decided to read this book with them and I haven’t taught it in years. My students knew nothing about her and even less about being black and poor in the South, as they are mostly from immigrant families. The day we finished the book was the day she died. The students all came running to me to tell me. We talked about her and they asked if we could have a moment of silence. The day we took the test, some students cried, and all wrote with such intensity and love.

I will always remember this moment and I wanted to share it with you and say thank you for remembering teachers.”

978-0-8129-7861-2Being a Teen, author Jane Fonda’s comprehensive guide to adolescent issues, was recently assigned to students taking the “Our Whole Lives” class at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Susquehanna Valley (Northumberland, PA).  Fonda’s new book, which covers topics from the body and sex to friendship, family and more, was universally praised by Unitarian Universalist’s students and teachers: “Being a Teen is a wonderful guide to yourself and to others, a pocket encyclopedia, a guide to the roller coaster of puberty. Jane Fonda answers questions that would be difficult to ask….”

Students were engaged by the book, including Henry, age 15, who wrote: “I was apprehensive at first because I thought it would be generic stuff that I already knew or have heard. After the first chapter I read, however, I found that I was learning a lot, and I ended up reading the whole book.” Another student, Emma, age 14, wrote: “The teenage years are a confusing time. Being a Teen is a clear guide with really good information.” (more…)

978-0-307-46497-2Max Brooks’ graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters focuses on the 369th Infantry Regiment—the first African American regiment mustered to fight in World War I.  Based on a true story, The Harlem Hellfighers takes readers from the enlistment lines in Harlem to the training camp at Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the trenches in France.  Despite extraordinary struggles and discrimination, the 369th became one of the most successful—and least celebrated—regiments of the war.

Author Max Brooks is available to Skype with classes that adopt The Harlem Hellfighters.  If you are interested, please email us at highschool@randomhouse.com

Click here to listen to Max Brooks’ NPR interview.

By Jared Diamond, author of The Third Chimpanzee for Young People: On the Evolution And Future of the Human Animal (Seven Stories, April 2014).The Third Chimpanzee For Young People

One day, when my twin sons were in middle school, they came home from school angry with me.  I wasn’t aware of having done anything particular that day to arouse their wrath, and so I asked them what was the matter.  They replied, “Our history teacher has assigned your book to our class to read.  We haven’t looked at it yet, but we already know that it’s a bad book.  Worst of all, our teacher is inviting you to come to school to talk to our class.  We are going to be so embarrassed in front of our friends!”

I duly arrived at my sons’ class, to find my sons sitting in the last row, with faces averted, huddled in uncomfortable postures, and obviously in agony from embarrassment.  As I began to talk about my book, their classmates started asking questions and expressing increasingly lively interest.  My sons gradually rotated to face forward, relaxed from their cramped posture, and began smiling.  They were delighted that their classmates liked my book, and that they didn’t have to be ashamed of me.  Since then, my sons have been among my strongest supporters, quick to denounce any criticism of my books.  (more…)

978-0-307-95667-5By Debbie Stier, author of The Perfect Score Project (Harmony, February 2014).

My project started as an attempt to motivate my son to care about the SATs. We needed a plan for college: how to get in and how to pay. I started researching the SAT, looking for hope, and it was during that search that I found an article about SAT scores leading to merit aid, which seemed promising.

I started with the SAT Question of the Day and immediately got hooked. They were like puzzles, and in a moment of enthusiasm, I declared I was going to try to achieve a perfect SAT score! I never expected my son to get a perfect score; he came up with his own goal, which we agreed on.

The project grew into a book idea—a “Consumer Reports” for the SAT. And so, in 2011, I took the test every time it was offered (seven times total) at five different test centers. (more…)

Thank you to all the dedicated high school teachers who entered to win a class set of books from the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Through their entries, our winners demonstrated a love of teaching and thoughtful ideas for how these new books will be incorporated into their curriculum. It is with great excitement that we announce this year’s winners, along with the books they have selected! Here is the full list of winners. (more…)

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