Book Review: ‘How to Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life’ by Marcus Tullius Cicero

I just do not have enough superlatives to describe this book. I am 68 years old and just finished this book by Cicero. It is a book that I recommend to one and all because it contains so much wonderful instruction and philosophy on the second half of our lives. Let me first say that this is a great translation by Phillip Freeman in which the Latin is on one side of the page and the English on the other side of the page. For those who are trained in Latin, this must be a true joy, for me it took me back to my 7th and 8th grade Latin classes and I realized how little I learned.

We go back almost 2000 years to the writings of Cicero in which he contemplated the end of life, and it’s something that all of us should read and at a much earlier age than I did. There is wisdom for everyone from youth, to middle age, to retirement time. He goes through each stage of life and gives us wonderful insights, yes there are references to other Romans and Greeks who we might know nothing about but he uses them as examples. He is rarely derogatory and always complimentary. He looks for wisdom and how to live life and what to expect as you grow older and how some of the fervor and enthusiasm for life, now changes to a different type of living and a different type of enjoyment. Yes by the end Cicero was a farmer, and even shows how farming can parallel life and the enjoyment that we can get from the simple pleasures of watching a seed grow into maturity and harvesting. It is an analogy of life. This took me a little longer than I had expected to finish this book, It is not because the book is difficult to read or understand, but rather it’s a book that makes you think, think about your life, and it is a book that allows you to put it down and pick it up a few weeks or a month later and not miss a beat. It is a book which I will probably read again next year, and maybe again after that because this short book contains much that can help us negotiate this second half of our lives. I particularly like when he points out that some of the traits of old age really are not due to old age, but rather are due to the character of that person’s life. If you were sullen and grumpy during your first half of your life, you will continue that in the second half of your life. If you were happy, forward-thinking and pleasant to one and all, then those traits will be amplified in senior citizens. He talks of life, death, pleasure, and the soul. I enjoyed this so much that I have gone out and purchased two other books on philosophy, and maybe it’s too late for me to learn much about youth, but quite possibly I can continue learning so that I can instruct my children and younger people who may have questions and issues about life and what to expect. In a way, I think this review has gotten rather philosophical, but that’s what happens when you read Cicero or any other of the classic philosophers and thinkers of that ancient era. Too often, today, we get caught up in the current day-to-day issues in our life and don’t think about how we can live the best possible life. How there are bigger and more important issues that surround us, and too much at the time we are mired in minutia instead of thinking about what will truly make our life better and how we can help others lead a better life. Just a marvelous book! A book I recommend to one and all.

-Ad-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top
Close