ARC Review: Cicero on Social Media


Cicero on Social Media: What the Great Thinkers of the Past Say About the Problems of the Present, Edited by Mike May

Cicero on Social Media is a collection of quotes from ancient Greece and Rome up to the early twentieth century. Mike May, the editor behind this self published effort tells us in the Preface (and on his GoodReads author page)  that the impetus behind the collection was his discovery of the “surprising frequency” with which ancient texts hold answers to seemingly modern problems.

The quotations are offered with no comments, and May says that he prefers that the authors speak for themselves. Nevertheless, his editorial hand is displayed in the quotes he has chosen and how he has grouped them -in chapters like “on Family, Marriage and Parenting” or “on Faith and Purpose”. 

This is a book that seems meant to be picked up and put down often, a reference of sorts for quotations relevant to today’s circumstances. For review purposes I read the book pretty much straight through. 

The title is a bit curious, and likely more of a marketing device than anything else (but what title isn’t?). There are of course quotations from Cicero, but they don’t really stand out among the many other men (yes, they are all men) whose quotations the author has chosen. And the chapter on “Social Media” is really about friendships, which, unfortunately, seem to be less and less what social media is about these days.

The ancient quotations, likely for copyright reasons, seem to be from older translations and are often couched in Elizabethan English with sentence constructions that are a bit of a challenge to parse for modern readers. I had to re-read more than a few of them to absorb their meaning.

It may seem obvious that a book that encourages us to look to the past to find solutions for today’s problems might lean toward a conservative view of the world. But I must admit that thought didn’t occur to me until I was about half way through the book. And I wasn’t prepared for the emphasis on quotes that support the small government, trickle down, anti-abortion, pre-Trump-Republican viewpoint that becomes very clear as you progress through the quotations in this book.

That’s not to say that there aren’t many quotations in this book that, taken by themselves, don't convey modern political overtones. But May’s editorial intent is quite evident even if he himself speaks little in this collection. If you are already of a similar view of the world, this book will likely appeal to you more than it did to me.

For a different perspective on looking to the past for answers to today’s problems, here’s a quote not included in the book, from Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls: “The past has been there all along, reminding us: This time--maybe, hopefully, against all odds, we will get it right.”

RATING: Two Stars ⭐⭐

NOTE: I was offered an ARC copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Title: Cicero on Social Media: What the Great Thinkers of the Past Say About the Problems of the Present

Author: Mike May

Publisher: Mike May

Publish Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN-13: 9780578374673

Publisher’s List Price: No Publisher Website