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On Lisp: Advanced Techniques for Common Lisp Perfect Paperback – September 9, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Perhaps the author gives the best description of this book: "On Lisp deals mostly with the kinds of programs you could only write in Lisp." The book provides extensive information on the advanced features of Lisp, which are not found in other popular programming languages. After showing how flexibly functions can be manipulated, On Lisp moves on to the best discussion of macros available, which includes details of the possible pitfalls (various referential bugs, for example). The book concludes with a demonstration of various advanced constructs that can be implemented in Lisp using the tools developed in the earlier part of the book. As with his other book, ANSI Common Lisp, Graham writes in a fluid style that is a pleasure to read.

From the Publisher

Written by a LISP expert, this is the most comprehensive tutorial available on the advanced LISP features and programming techniques. It shows how to program in the bottom-up style that is ideal for LISP programming, and includes a unique, practical collection of LISP programming techniques that shows how to take advantage of the language's design for highly efficient programming in a wide variety of (non-artificial intelligence) applications.
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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 413 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1st edition (September 9, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0130305529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0130305527
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,395,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This book treats advanced Lisp techniques.
terry.west@cybersafe.com
If you want to learn Lisp and don't yet have experience with a lot of languages, get this as your second book.
W. Ghost
A good book might get 5 to 10 page numbers so noted.
Peter Norvig

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Peter Norvig on May 8, 2000
Format: Perfect Paperback
When I find something really interesting in a book that I want to remember later, I write the page number on the end page. A good book might get 5 to 10 page numbers so noted. My copy of On Lisp has 25. Now, not every one of the 25 contains something I agree completely with, but they all made me think. If you're experienced at Lisp, you'll find a similar number of thought-provoking ideas, and if you're new to Lisp, you'll find a whole new way of looking at programming (and you'll find that you can apply the new ideas to other languages as well).
Looking at Graham's code felt like reading my own code masterfully translated, say, from Danish to Swedish. A lot of the ideas are the same, some of the old friends had new names, and there were some new friends that I had never bothered to abstract and name, but recognized instantly once Graham did so (e.g. mapcars, fn).
Along with the ideas, I admire the many handy turns of phrase that make the book a real page-turner:
"It used to be thought that you could judge someone's character by looking at the shape of his head. Whether or not this is true for people, it is generally true of Lisp programs."
"The classic Common Lisp defmacro is like a cook's knife: an elegant idea which seems dangerous, but which experts use with confidence."
"Lisp is not inherently about processing lists any more than Polo shirts are for Polo" (Note that the sentence would have been a little confusing if Graham had written "list processing" rather than "processing lists". In Graham's prose, like his code, every word counts. Time and again I can only say "I wish I had thought of that.")
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98 of 99 people found the following review helpful By KY Bike Rider on June 14, 2003
Format: Perfect Paperback
Go to paul graham's website and download this book for free now. You'll be happy you did.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2002
Format: Perfect Paperback
There are dozens of programming texts that I recommend to people who want to understand various topics. There are only a small handful that I recommend to programmers who aren't using the tool or language that the book covers. This is one of those books. It requires a prior knowledge of Lisp, but not expert knowledge. Paul Graham rewards his readers with a much deeper understanding of the merits of Lisp and how to take advantage of the power it provides.
Paul Graham has commented on his web site ..., "It seems to me that there have been two really clean, consistent models of programming so far: the C model and the Lisp model. These two seem points of high ground, with swampy lowlands between them. As computers have grown more powerful, the new languages being developed have been moving steadily toward the Lisp model." I read that comment before I read On Lisp. It was fresh in my mind at the time, and I saw some of the features of Lisp in C++ and Java. Graham cites runtime type checking and garbage collection, but there are subtler features that appear in the C++ STL. When he described using macros to create functions as needed, his examples immediately brought to mind some of the templates for various "helper" classes; pair, for example. But he could equally well be talking about some of the classes in the Java runtime that are designed to be derived from. The bottom line is that this book is an excellent tutorial on good library design. It teaches by example the philosophy behind creating libraries that extend your language, either in general ways or specifically for the problem domain.
Paul Graham handles Lisp lovingly as an expert craftsman. An observant reader can learn a great deal about craftsmanship from his book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 30, 2000
Format: Perfect Paperback
This is the only technical book I've read cover-to-cover *twice*. As others have noted, the author treats macros in *far* greater detail than any other books on Lisp. Furthermore, I thought his example code was more easily understood than most programming books.
The only caveat: this book *is not* for people beginning lisp. Given it's title, this obviously doesn't reflect poorly on the book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2002
Format: Perfect Paperback
This is an excellent book, and if you understand it it will make you a better lisp programmer. See the other reviews here or search through the comp.lang.lisp archives for testemonials. Yes, it's _that_ awesome...but unfortunately On Lisp is out of print, and is really hard to find used copies of--probably because nobody wants to part with it. Furthermore, it doesn't look like Prentice Hall, or anyone else will be publishing it any more. Fortunately, Paul Graham has made this available in postscript and pdf forms on his website. It's missing a few figures, but will definitely be helpful for everyone who has been patiently waiting months for a copy. Thanks, Paul!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bradford W. Miller on April 5, 2000
Format: Perfect Paperback
One problem with Lisp novices is that they generally try to treat Lisp like ALGOL or C; but while Lisp is, technically, an imperative language, it is best used as a functional (and symbolic) language, and that requires a different approach to solving problems "in the Lisp way". Once learned, this problem solving approach can be used in a variety of situations even with other programming languages, but the real problem has been the lack of good presentations of Lisp that didn't either concentrate just on the lanugage itself, or on applications. _On Lisp_ is one of the best treatments of *Programming in Lisp*, in my opinion, as it takes the reader beyond just the semantics of the language, and teaches them typical patterns of code which helps one know how to look at problems so they are easy to solve in Lisp.

No matter what your experience level (and I had been a professional Lisp hacker for over ten years when I first read this book), there is something to learn from _On Lisp_. Read it, and improve your ability to conceptualize solutions to your programming problems. END
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