- Paperback: 504 pages
- Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (October 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781593272814
- ISBN-13: 978-1593272814
- ASIN: 1593272812
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time! 1st Edition
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Lisp has been hailed as the world's most powerful programming language, but its cryptic syntax and academic reputation can be enough to scare off even experienced programmers. Those dark days are finally over—Land of Lisp brings the power of functional programming to the people!
With his brilliantly quirky comics and out-of-this-world games, longtime Lisper Conrad Barski teaches you the mysteries of Common Lisp. You'll start with the basics, like list manipulation, I/O, and recursion, then move on to more complex topics like macros, higher order programming, and domain-specific languages. Then, when your brain overheats, you can kick back with an action-packed comic book interlude!
Along the way you'll create (and play) games like Wizard Adventure, a text adventure with a whiskey-soaked twist, and Grand Theft Wumpus, the most violent version of Hunt the Wumpus the world has ever seen.
You'll learn to:
- Master the quirks of Lisp's syntax and semantics
- Write concise and elegant functional programs
- Use macros, create domain-specific languages, and learn other advanced Lisp techniques
- Create your own web server, and use it to play browser-based games
- Put your Lisp skills to the test by writing brain-melting games like Dice of Doom and Orc Battle
With Land of Lisp, the power of functional programming is yours to wield.
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As a teacher of computer science, I tend to prefer teaching out of books with a coherent pedagogy. How to Design Programs is my favorite textbook. Simply Scheme is another good one.
Land of Lisp doesn't seem to be grounded in any kind of modern pedagogical philosophy. Instead, it has a kind of retro feel that is appealing in its own way. This book takes me back to the 80s, learning how to program by typing in complex BASIC programs out of magazines and books. Many of the programs I typed in, I didn't understand 100%. But each time I entered a program, I learned something, and then by tweaking the programs and seeing what it would do, I learned a little more. One of my favorite middle school memories is the time I managed to understand a text adventure BASIC program well enough to write my own. Land of Lisp, in fact, has code for a rudimentary text adventure engine, as well as a blatant "Retro type-in game" of Robots that fits compactly in less than a page of code. So it's easy to see why this book evokes in me a sense of nostalgia.
I think Scheme is a better language for learning programming than Common Lisp. Common Lisp lacks a bit of Scheme's elegance, and it's just harder to get a Lisp environment up and running. But Land of Lisp doesn't make any apologies for Common Lisp's quirks. On the contrary, it revels in the cars and the cdrs, and the convoluted loop macro and format strings which allow you to write some ridiculously concise code (like the retro type-in robot game). The book repeatedly brags about how amazing Lisp is, sometimes to the point of overstating the case for dynamic, functional languages. This is not a book that will attract non-programmers to programming, but for that rare breed of person who was "born to program", the book has an infectious enthusiasm for programming in general, and Lisp specifically.
In my mind, the truly special thing about Land of Lisp is its inspired collection of engaging and well-chosen projects, which are quite a bit different from the run-of-the-mill exercises in a typical textbook. As a teacher, I am glad to own this book because I'm always on the lookout for great project ideas for my students. A book with one great project is usually worth the price -- this book has several! I intend to use these project ideas with my Scheme students. Obviously, the programs translate the easiest to other Lisp dialects, but even if you don't teach Lisp, I'd recommend purchasing this book and trying to port these projects to your favorite language. Orc Battle, for example, should be doable in any object-oriented language. A number of the projects would probably work well in Python. I would advise against trying to tackle these projects in Java (the resulting programs would be too verbose), but a modern multi-paradigm variant of Java, (e.g., Scala), should work just fine.
I own this book and have tried reading it 3 times. I just can't get into it. This last time, I didn't get past page 30. It is slow to start - spending a whole lot of time saying "Lisp is awesome", without saying WHY. The author loves Lisp, but calls people who use other languages "Cro-Magnon". He tries to make excuses as to why Lisp never took off, but he doesn't mention that it isn't good for device drivers, OSes, and, oh say, writing garbage collectors.
When the author gets to explaining the language with its many strange keywords ("cdr"?!) and syntax, I just can't get into it.
If you want to learn about the power of Lisp, I recommend Paul Graham's "ANSI Common Lisp". It's an easy and erudite read and is one of the best books on programming that I've seen.