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Some Lisp books (and then some)

Jul 25, 2012

Some Lisp books

caveat: tthis is not a best-of nor a comprehensive list of Lisp books; it is merely a selection of Lisp books you may not have heard of or that special to me in some way. If you find this post interesting then you might like my yearly best-of posts.

My first Lisp book:


My first Lisp:


My favorite undergrad Lisp/Prolog book:


My favorite Lisp:


The best Lisp book I’ve ever read and could ever possibly read1:


Chouser’s book:


Mind-blowing and bombastic:

letoverlambda excerpts at the author’s site

The best Clojure book for beginners:


Language implementation 101:


Some books are worth any price

On Lisp by Paul Graham


Compiling with Continuations by Andrew Appel2


Lisp in Small Pieces by Christian Queinnec


LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual by John McCarthy


Applicative Higher-order Programming by Stefan Sokolowski





  1. This is one of those “I wish I had written this” books. 

  2. Appel also wrote a series of compiler implementation books in various languages that I’ve yet to read. Any thoughts on the series? 

19 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Of Appel’s compiler texts, I’ve heard that Modern Compiler Implementation in ML is the one to get. The C++ and Java variants were literal translations from the ML code so they aren’t very idiomatic or nice to read. I’ve heard excellent things about the book from compiler hackers I respect such as Nikodemus Siivola and Slava Pestov. shrug

  2. @Brit_Butler

    Thank you for the information. My instincts told me that ML was the way to go, but I’ve yet to take the plunge.

  3. Re footnote 2: Appel’s compiler impl books are pretty good beginner compiler writer books. What’s interesting is that they decompose an actual compiler (written in various languages depending on the book) rather than present a series of techniques in pseudo-code that you have to figure out how and when to apply.

    Unfortunately, that also means you’ll get a pretty good intro to techniques used in that particular compiler while missing out on techniques that might be useful in other cases, e.g. for other target language types.

  4. John Hinnegan

    I was sad to see that Practical Common Lisp was not on the list. It was one of my favorite programming books (not just Lisp specific). It was really great because you built real projects towards the end. It focused on getting you up and writing code in LISP, spending some time on dev environments and doing solving some practical problems.

    Maybe not the best for exploring the full power of LISP, but a really great intro.

  5. Scott

    On Lisp free download at Paul’s website.

  6. Brandon Harvey

    V. curious to know what is so appealing about The Architecture of Symbolic Computers?

  7. @Scott

    I had completely blanked on the “On Lisp” free link. Updated. Thanks.

  8. @Hinnegan

    PCL is a great book, and one of my favorites. However, my goal was to highlight lesser-known Lisp books.

  9. @Brandon_Harvey

    I will write a comprehensive review ASAP. Let me just say that it has everything.

  10. john

    Hi fogus, just a few days ago I attended a presentation about List machines.. Afterwards I asked if made sense to buy the book “The Architecture of Symbolic Computers “(Mcgraw-Hill Series”). I received the advice that the book is all in all too general and the lecturer would not recommend the book… May I therefore ask what you liked about the book? I’m just asking because the book is quite expensive…..

  11. john

    sorry bad timing and what a coincidence I just read your comment at @Brandon_Harvey too late……..

  12. Kai

    SICP, now and forever – a book that doesn’t just happen to use Lisp/Scheme to teach computing, but instills a sense of elegance and expressiveness that resonates in the reader’s mind:

  13. Just to chime in on Appel’s books and to agree with Brit, Modern Compiler Implementation in ML is the one to get. I got it and read it. It’s worth it.

    I think the others were written for marketing purposes, probably at the insistence of a textbook publisher.

  14. Very interesting list of books. I’m trying to maintain up-to date list of FP-related books, including Lisp: (although, I separated Lisp from Scheme and Clojure)

  15. I have scanned the table of contents and index of Kogge’s book so that people can see what it covers (I had trouble finding a copy):

  16. Here’s another lisp book: “Interpreting LISP”

  17. Still planning to review “Architecture Of Symbolic Computers”? I’m kind of intrigued.

  18. Justin Heyes-Jones

    This is great. I collect old and weird lisp books. A couple of suggestions: LISPCraft by Robert Wilensky (CL was dynamically scoped when this was written). Object-Oriented programming in Common Lisp by Sonya E Kleene, LISP by Winston (I’ve got 2nd and 3rd editions for some reason)

  19. Hi tere just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen iin Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue orr something to do with interjet browser compatibility but I figureed I’d post to let you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Kudos

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