Thomas Power knows a great many people. According to the “Meet the Authors” section in A Friend in Every City, he is “the ultimate connector—he has met over 23,000 people since 1982.” And he doesn’t just meet them: he gets to know things about them, and remembers those things. Thomas’s encyclopedic appetite for people, what they think, what they know and what they’ve seen, is plainly apparent in every page of A Friend in Every City, as are the considerable talents of his coauthors. Penny Power, who hails from a strong IT background, first came up with the concept of Ecademy, the online networking organization she runs along with husband Thomas. Andy Coote is the dedicated writer of the trio and one of Ecademy’s first “BlackStar” lifetime members.

This book is in many senses a companion volume to Thomas’s 2003 e-book, Networking for Life, a breezy, free-wheeling manifesto, both brilliant and intensely practical. Subtitled “The Ecademy Guide to Power Networking,” Networking for Life is just that: a practical, from-the-trenches handbook. By contrast, A Friend in Every City takes a giant step back to bring us the big (very big) picture. Just compare this new book’s subtitle: “One Global Family: A Networking Vision for the Twenty-First Century.”

Don’t get me wrong: this new book gets quite practical, too. By the later chapters, you’re learning fascinating things about how to distinguish the roles we play in our interactions, about how to develop value-laden blog content (“word of mouse”), how to develop connections in a face-to-face context…lots of useful stuff. It’s just that before you get there, you are going on a journey of sweeping context—which I love, and suspect you will too.

The authors state that “the world seems poised for a profound change,” both economically and socially, and that this sea change they observe has positioned networking as the critical survival skill of the new century. Refreshingly, they back up their observation with striking examples and significant reams of data. There is a wealth of research, perspective and insight culled from dozens and dozens of fascinating sources. Examples of relevant societal trends: a 2004 research report found that “54 percent of social groups A and B, professional and middle management, now want fulfillment above wealth and property.” And another: a background paper for an Internet exchange for lenders and borrowers notes that “Many have sacrificed the measurable security of a monthly wage for intangibles like satisfaction, greater control, self-expression and time at home with family…” and further, that “less than 50 percent of the working population have traditional full-time jobs today.”

Talk about confirmation of why we’re in the business we’re in. This book offers dozens of passages you’ll want to quote in conversations, on teleconferences and in e-zines. Yes, the material is that good. Have a highlighter handy and prepare to think while you read.

Paperback, 218 pages, $21.99; Ecademy Press, 2006