Last week, Charles Dickens celebrated his 200th birthday.

I've actually read a fair bit of Dickens.

Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. Of those, Bleak House is probably the "best" of his books, and I have a certain fondness for it because I read it while in London. It also contains one of the first detectives in English fiction: the bizarrely named Inspector Bucket. I wouldn't necessarily recommend Bleak House, though. It is 1000 pages and quite dense.

Out of those I've read, David Copperfield and Great Expectations are probably the most accessible.

One thing I didn't know about Dickens, was that he was a compulsive walker. This is from an old Sports Illustrated:

Scarcely a day went by that Dickens didn't flee his desk and take to the streets of London and its suburbs. He routinely walked as many as 20 miles a day, and once set out at 2 a.m. to walk from his house in London to his country residence in Gad's Hill, Kent, 30 miles away. As several of his walking companions described it, he had a distinctive "swinging" gait.

He walked often for five hours, after writing in the morning. He took his house guests with him sometimes.

He often took houseguests on long, brisk walks. As Dickens wrote to his close friend, John Forster, "[Frank] Stone is still here, and I lamed his foot by walking him 17 miles the day before yesterday, but otherwise he flourisheth."

He took to "training" two friends with easy walks ("breathers") and hard walks ("busters"). This is what a "breather" was like:

"Being requested to give them a breather yesterday," wrote Dickens, "I gave them a stiff one of five miles over a bad road, half the distance uphill, in the snow. I took them at a pace of four and a half miles an hour, and you never beheld such objects as they were when we got back; both smoking like factories, and both obliged to change everything before they could come to dinner."

Importantly, he used his walks for research, stopping into buildings and seeing streets and people that would later inspire novels.