Not only did John Landis Grove help build two small equipment producers into global players, he got to retire two times in the process.

An up-close biography titled The Life and Legacy of John L. Grove (Buchanan Trail, 2006, $39.95) details how Grove’s inveterate innovating led him to design the first mass-produced telescopic cranes and manlifts. The Pennsylvania native had set out to build an automatic dishwasher but followed his brother, Dwight, into the farm wagon business. Cranes eventually became Grove Manufacturing’s mainstay.

The brothers were adept at reading clients’ needs, as author Gerald Lute’s account makes clear. One example came in 1959, when Dwight invented an early version of the Jerr-Dan rollback carrier. Today, Jerr-Dan is a unit of Oshkosh Truck Corp., which last month acquired JLG Industries—John Grove’s manlift startup—for $3.2 billion.

Hard luck came in 1968 when Grove’s micromanaging style forced Dwight to push early retirement on Grove. After traveling for a year with his wife, Cora, in a mobile home, Grove returned to forge what became JLG. But ego got the better of Grove again. He quit the business in 1993 to pursue philanthropy. The 219-page book is available at