Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate

2.88 of 5 stars 2.88  ·  rating details  ·  100 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Have you ever met a child who talked like an adult? Who knew big words and how to use them? Was he a charmer or an insufferable smart aleck—or maybe both? Mark Oppenheimer was just such a boy, his talent for language a curse as much as a blessing. But when he got to junior high, Oppenheimer discovered an outlet for his loquaciousness: the debate team. Frank and c...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Free Press (first published 2010)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wisenheimer, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wisenheimer

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 181)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I liked this book at first. A million years ago, I was also a champion debater (though in policy debate and in a public school, so according to Mr. Oppenheimer that's two strikes against me), and like Oppenheimer, my facility with words got me in a lot of trouble as a kid. So the first couple of chapters resonated with me - I, too, got picked on by my peers, had teachers who hated me, corrected the grammar and spelling of my elders. And the writing is pretty funny - he really is good with words....more
I have mixed feelings about Wisenheimer. I understand that it's a memoir to M. Oppenheimer's debating years. I too, was once a debater and I found the feeling nostalgic for his experiences speak out to plenty of those who have forayed into the debating circle. He begins with his childhood, a smug young boy who's not difficult to hate. Fact is, the first few chapters had me feeling a sense of disdain towards one who was intelligent but used it for the wrong reasons.

I suppose the saving grace was...more
Wisenheimer chronicles the life of world champion debater Mark Oppenheimer from childhood through adolescence and into this young adult life at Yale University. I enjoyed the book overall; Oppenheimer presents a unique and interesting perspective on growing up, however, for someone who is so good with words, the book seemed to get a bit bland at times. Also, there are times when he seemed to be going off on tangents unrelated to debate; I wish he had kept it a bit more focused, however overall,...more
The chapters that covered Marks childhood were well written and informative. I was motivated to read this as my son is one of those hyper-verbal kids that hasn't stop talking since he started, although I think he is of an entirely different temperament to the author.
As he covered his final high school years and university years, the author's tone changed to one of an adolescent trying to impress other adolescents . By impress, I mean competing for most immature, vulgar and crude anecdotes he co...more
I picked this up off a lending-library shelf at a coffee shop and read the first chapter over a cappuccino, then decided it was entertaining enough to take home. I should have just ordered another coffee and read a little further. Oppenheimer was a snotty kid, which was treated with a fair amount of humor in this book, and an insufferable teenager, which was not. I expect if I had a high-school debate team background, I might have given it three stars, but he lost me when he started giving a det...more
Eh. Wanted to read it b/c the hubs is a champion debater from high school. Pretty much right on from stories he told me. But who needs to hear another someone yapping about himself.
I took a creative writing class with Mark Oppenheimer about ten years ago, at a summer nerd camp between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. It was in Mark's class that I truly fell in love with spoken and written language, and where decided (four years early) that I would major in English when I got to college. Mark had us memorize a poem each week (the first week, I chose "One Art," by Elizabeth Bishop, and, seven years later, I wrote my senior thesis on Bishop's poetry and corresp...more
Mark Oppenheimer is human. He is not some glorified billionaire, or a war hero. He isn’t a genius, or an artistic savant. His only talent lies in speech. Nonfiction is fairly new concept to me, so this was only the second biography I have ever picked up in my life. Yet I never felt like this was not a biography, rather a book filled with dabbles on debate and Mr. Oppenheimers life. The book describes his journey through the world of debate, one known to produce articulate politicians and lawyer...more
Jeff Raymond
You remember that guy who was always the smartest dude in the room? I'm not talking about the people you know as adults, but the know-it-all kid that's the stereotypical dweeb you knew as a child? Do you want to read about that?

This is a book about two things - it's a great book about someone who spent his high school years on debate team, and it's a terrible memoir of someone growing up thinking he's the kid who's so much better than his peers. So much of the latter feels like the lament of the...more
Wisenheimer is the true story of Mark Oppenheimer, a successful journalist who owes his involvement on the debate team with giving his childhood precociousness and loquaciousness direction and purpose. Oppenheimer was a confident, talkative, and downright argumentative child, never afraid to challenge his parent’s friends or an elementary school teacher. Like many intelligent children, his brilliance makes him an outsider to his peers and even many adults in his life. It becomes easy to justify...more
The author, a neighbor of mine, was a high school debater. The thesis for this book is that an awkward kid who is fascinated by words, excited by verbally communicating ideas and unable to stop talking can find community and success in formal debate and impromptu speaking at Forensics Tournaments. It's a memoir about the early life, mostly middle and high school and college years of Mark Oppenheimer. The background about and history of high school and college debate is interesting and I gather h...more
Thank goodness this is a good read! How awkward it would have been to be someone who loves words & then writes a bad book. I'm impressed with how candidly he discusses his very bad behavior without glorifying it at all. (Note: Now that I've finished the book, I know he loves TALKING, not WORDS.)

Every kid needs something that will save him or her from the misdirected self.

Well, it started out well. But there's a richness missing. Oppenheimer still seems like his childhood self: almost mean, a...more
Kate Cochran
This is a book that wants you to believe it is a journey from being a self-centered bullying jerk to becoming an evolved likable guy. Unfortunately the evolution never really happens. It is replete with master examples of humble brags and detailed descriptions of high school and college friends who are only significant to the author. I can only imagine the editor is his mother.
Oppenheimer was a verbally precocious child who had a a serious mean streak (in fact he went so far as to cause a friend's father to be investigated by police after a false accusation)and few friends as a result of that combo. In junior high he found the debate club to be his saving grace in allowing an outlet for his argumentative ways and an opportunity to make friends. Through high school and college being on a debate team was a major part of his life. Oppenheimer obviously has a great facili...more
Could have been really great, I guess, but it was fine-- it is what it is --- a "childhood subject to debate"--- which means that it really was just about him, and a little bit about debate (which was him) and more about him.

The plus sides include that there are brutally honest descriptions of his outsider-ness (which aids in the reader's understanding of unusual children, their trials and tribulations), as well as some interesting tidbits for the debating-world ignoramous.

Most interesting, perh...more
This book did not live up to its cover. I expected more, not just a book dedicated to his seemingly superior childhood and growing up on the debate circuit in an elite private school in New England before going to Yale for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. I constantly felt like Oppenheimer was recreating this elite debaters club and that as an outsider (a poor kid from upstate New York who went to a public school who could barely keep a boys' volleyball team from year to year let alone a...more
I got about 75 pages into Wisenheimer and stopped -- I put it down because I felt that for someone who is supposedly so gifted with a huge vocabulary and inquisitive nature, this was sort of a dull read - and I WAS the sort of kid that Mark was.

Wisenheimer is about a boy who can't keep his mouth shut and loves to argue - he finds a home in debate club, and regales readers with stories of how he got into trouble for being a smart aleck in his youth. There is some humor, some pathos, some blow blo...more
Robert Beech
A remarkably revealing and personal account of growing up as a wordy kid who found his outlet in debate. Notably lacking in dragons and wizards (usually a sine qua non for anything I pick out for myself to read), but none-the-less so captivating that I spent most of the weekend with my nose stuck in this book and completely ignoring the paper I was supposed to be reviewing for Biological Psychiatry. Great job Mark.
For someone who is bragging about how good he is with words, this is an exceptionally bland narrative. It's like sitting at a family party listening to an uncle tell you about the good old days--essentially it would make an interesting conversation but drags on and just doesn't have the depth to create a whole book. It would have been better as an essay. Plus, his compliments and apologies seem insincere.
As someone who has competed in and coached high school speech, I really appreciated this story. His funny, often self-effacing tone is very engaging. The stories he tells are (sometimes painfully) familiar. I enjoyed it and could immediately think of several others who would enjoy it even more.
What could have been a fascinating book about the importance of words and speaking instead turns into a play-by-play of various competitions and lists of people he met who really have little to no bearing on how debate helped make him the person he is.
God, I love Oppenheimer and his brain. This is the best memoir I have ever read about growing up a too-smart-for-one's-own-good wiseass/enheimer.

And friends know I hardly ever dole out the five stars.

Seriously, Oppy is the BEST.
Title was chosen to rhyme with the author’s last name. Sad story of a boy raised as an adult. No friends until he found debate team. Still not an enduring protagonist. Not too well written.
Even though I wasn't a debate kid, a lot of this really spoke to me. Oppenheimer's funny, and has some good musings on what it's like to be a precociously linguistic child.
A trip down memory lane for a fellow debater during the same timeframe. The author is obnoxious in many ways, but so were all of us in debate back in high school.
as a former debater, i found parts of this book cute, but i imagine that it would be of minimal interest to a non-debater.
Entertaining narrative of a bright kid at at a CT prep school and Yale who excels on his debating teams
I could attempt to be more articulate about this book, but I'll just go with "meh" and leave it at that.
A high school classmate- I recommend it to any LC or Yale or Oppenheimer aquaintences.
It was occasionally funny, but, overall, boring. It was a pretty quick read, though.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side (Kindle Single) Dan Savage: The First Gay Celebrity Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate

Share This Book