Practical Common Lisp

Peter Seibel

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Lisp is often thought of as an academic language, but it need not be. This is the first book that introduces Lisp as a language for the real world. Practical Common Lisp presents a thorough introduction to Common Lisp, providing you with an overall understanding of the language features and how they work. Over a third of the book is devoted to practical examples, such as the core of a spam filter and a web application for browsing MP3s and streaming them via the Shoutcast protocol to any standard MP3 client software (e.g., iTunes, XMMS, or WinAmp). In other "practical" chapters, author Peter Seibel demonstrates how to build a simple but flexible in-memory database, how to parse binary files, and how to build a unit test framework in 26 lines of code.

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I have been programming in Python, PHP, Java and C for a couple or years now, and I just finished reading Hackers and Painters, so I would love to give LISP a try!

I understand its totally diferent from what i know and that it won't be easy. Also I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) there's way less community and development around LISP. So my question is: what's the best way to learn LISP?

I wouldn't mind buying books or investing some time. I just don't want it to be wasted.

The "final" idea would be to use LISP for web development, and I know that's not so common so... I know it's good to plan my learning before picking the first book or tutorial and spending lots of time on something that may not be the best way!

Thank you all for your answers!

edit: I read Practical Common Lisp and was: ... long, hard, interesting and definitely got me rolling in Lisp, after that i read the little schemer, and it was short, fun and very very good for my overall programming. So my recommendation would be to read first the little schemer, then (its a couple of hours and its worth it) if you decide lisp(or scheme or whatever dialect) is not what you where looking for, you will still have a very fun new way of thinking about recursion!

You might want to start with The Little Schemer as a warm-up. It's not a practical book about writing production Lisp programs, but it's a great book for learning how to think in Lisp.

Pick up The Land of Lisp by Conrad Barski. It is a fun filled introduction to Lisp programming using cartoons and games.

I enjoyed reading Practical Common LISP and ANSI Common LISP.

On LISP looks interesting, but at $190 seems a little expensive for a book.

I like to study languages outside my comfort zone, but I've had a hard time finding a place to start for functional languages. I heard a lot of good things about Structure and Interpretations of Computer Programs, but when I tried to read through it a couple of years ago it just seemed to whiz over my head. I do way better with books than web sites, but when I visit the local book store the books on LISP look kind of scary.

So what's a good starting point? My goal is to be able to use a functional programming language to solve simple problems in 6 months or so, and the ability to move to more advanced topics, recognize when a functional language is the right tool for the job, and use the language to solve more problems over the course of 2-3 years. I like books that are heavy on examples but also include challenges to work through. Does such a thing exist for functional languages?

I found The Little Schemer a great, great introduction to functional programming. It's entirely based on simple, bite sized examples which are built up upon as the book goes on.

The Little Schemer teaches recursion really well, and it's fun and simple to read.

I also liked The Scheme Programming Language for a broader introduction into the language.

Since there are a bunch of different functional programming languages, it's hard to recommend books. But if you're interested in Common Lisp, recently I've been reading "Practical Common Lisp" by Peter Seibel, which you can check out online for free before dropping your hard earned cash on it. It's a pretty gentle introduction to CL, with great explanations and tons of examples. Seibel's a great writer (example: read the story of Mac,) he's good at keeping you engaged, which is really where SICP falls down, I think. It's just so dry! But while Practical Common Lisp is pretty example-heavy, it doesn't really have challenges to work through, although the examples are mostly designed to let you continue to work and build on them.

Another good book, this one Scheme-oriented: How to Design Programs. (Online) I haven't had as much time with this book, being more of a Lisper than a Schemer myself, but it's well written, has good explanations and examples, and has lots of exercises to work on. It seems pretty popular in the Scheme crowd.

Check out Introduction to functional programming. It offers a different perspective.

I have heard good things about Haskell Functional Programming, but I also found this list of functional programming books at amazon that might be helpful to you.

This semester at college I have a course for Artificial Intelligence and we are studying Lisp. The problem is that I don't have any functional programming background, but I do know OOP programming (Java, Javascript, PHP).

Can you recommend some good books to get me up to speed on Lisp and artificial intelligence?