Britain prides itself on its eccentrics and has an appreciation for the absurd. Russell Ash tapped into this fascination with dozens of books - in reality, collections of lists - that recorded and celebrated the odd and outlandish. Born in Surrey but raised in Bedford, he came from a long line of gold and silversmiths. He first worked briefly for an insurance company, then as a researcher for Reader's Digest, before establishing his own publishing firm. When that foundered, he worked for the publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson, then Pavilion Books. His first book, Highwaymen, appeared in 1967. He would write more than 100 works of non-fiction. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he wrote a dozen biographies and appreciations of artists from the Victorians and the Impressionists to Van Gogh and Millais. In the second half of the 1990s he wrote a number of illustrated children's books.
He was best known for his Top Ten series - sport, music, film, for men, Britain. From 2005, he also produced a series, Whitaker's World of Facts, which included a list of phobias: papyrophobia, a fear of paper; pogonophobia, a fear of beards; linonophobia, a fear of string; and clinophobia, a fear of going to bed. From 1989 until his death, he wrote The Top Ten of Everything, probably the best-selling of all his works. Known as "the human Google", his research was prodigious and his enthusiasm unbounded. In his collection of Extraordinary but True Names, he delighted in listing: Ah Choo, Eva Ready, Ben Dover, Eva Faithfull, Tim Burr and Barb Dwyer.
Born on June 18, 1946, he married twice and is survived by his second wife, a daughter from his first marriage and two sons from his second. He died on June 21. * The National