One of the best measures of a great book, to my mind, is how much I find myself thinking and talking about it in the days after I finish reading it. By that measure, Leonard Sweet's latest book, Viral, is a great one.

Sweet is a favorite of mine. His scholarship, insight, creativity, vision, and energy astound me. All of that comes through in Viral. In it, Sweet characteristically provides a clear and cogent way of looking at and thinking about the present we find ourselves in. With his usual flair for coining memorable terms, he sketches the difference between one generation and the next, which he labels "Gutenbergers" (those born before 1973, the year the cell phone was invented) and "Googlers" (those born since). He demonstrates how differently--often better--Googlers think and relate, compared to Gutenberger ways.

Another measure of a great book to me is whether the author manages to challenge my assumptions and upgrade my way of thinking, while maintaining credibility. Sweet does that. For example, he says, "Books are the most antisocial technology ever invented." He points out that reading a book is a necessarily solitary proposition, while TGIF technology (which stands for Twitter-Google-iPhone-Facebook) is thoroughly social. How odd, he adds, that Gutenbergers accuse Googlers of being antisocial.

Finally, I often measure a great book by how much underlining, highlighting, notating, etc., I do while reading. By that measure, too, Viral makes the grade. Here are just some of the portions I underlined:
I am convinced that Christians need to start taking cues from the Googlers.

Gutenbergers have been far more concerned about rectitude of thoughts about God than they have on rectitude of relationship with God.

For [Gutenbergers], words serve much the same purpose as mathematical proof….[For] Googlers words are agents of change.
Googlers are not as interested in proving a point as they are in making connections.

Googlers tend to live by values that early Christians would recognize. They believe there is more truth in relationships than in propositions.

The church may wake up to find that Jesus’s time has come in TGIF culture because it is more organic than linear, more kinesis than stasis, more circle than square.

It is possible for the Word of God to be obscured by Words.

“Modern Christianity” is arguably more modern, more Gutenberger, than it is Christian.

There is no such thing as an untranslated version of Christianity.

Some Christians are so fixated on being theologically sound they are sound asleep to what God is doing.

Christians are always standing at an angle to their age.

The Bible can be a tomb or a manger.

There is nothing more evil than a Christian who has been taken over by satanic urges and doesn’t know it.

I believe in the well-turned phrase as a defense against chaos, unreason, and kitsch.

Biblical identity is bound up with the community.

Jesus is mystery, not equation. Add him up, and you still don’t have it. He didn’t come to earth so you could use him to prove a point. He is the point.

Christian spirituality is totalitarian. Jesus asks for all of our lives, not just a “spiritual” segment.

We need a mercy default where we cringe when criticizing others, where we get quickly tired of finding fault, and where we focus more on what we can learn from people we disagree with than what divides us.

Lion/Lamb, Alpha/Omega, come live/come die, first/last, Prince of Peace/wields sword, emptying/filling, exalted/humbled, saint/sinner, One/Three, transcendence/immanence, dove (innocence)/serpent (wisdom), East (intuition)/West (reason). If you’re not hearing Jesus in surround sound, you’re not hearing Jesus.

The attack mentality is Gutenberger. TGIF Culture, at least as it is captured in Facebook, is in favor of “liking” something. It has no built-in template for “disliking.” Facebook is on record as being against against. It has said no to negativity.
Oh, and one more thing. No, two. A great book, in my estimation, is entertaining and engrossing, terms that definitely describe Viral. And, a truly great book changes something: me, my mind, sometimes even the world around me. By that measurement, too, Viral is a great book, and one I recommend without reservation.

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