Friday, August 3, 2007

How To (Start to) Learn Lisp in 21 Days

My quest to learn Lisp continues, but I've reached a major milestone: I'm ready to start writing code. For me, learning a new technology usually starts with reading about it for a while, trying to form a mental model of the landscape. It took a bit of searching, but with some help, I was able to find three resources that were just what I needed. I thought I'd post them here for anyone else interested in the language. All three of these are free and available online in their entirety.


  1. Common Lisp: A Gentle Introduction to Symbolic Computation. A really excellent beginner's book. Extremely approachable, good narrative style, describes the important bits and leaves out the advanced stuff. Highly recommended.

  2. Common Lisp the Language, 2nd Edition. The Lisp book. The style is rather dense, but once you've got the basics, that's just what you want.

  3. Common Lisp HyperSpec. As you might suspect, this is the spec. Always useful to know where the spec is.


I'd suggest reading the first, skimming the second with dives into areas that you think you might need, and browsing the third as appropriate.


As for me, I've got an interesting idea for a utility that I want to write. There's nothing like trying to solve a real problem to fill in the gaps academic exercises like reading a book leave. I'm sure you'll hear more about it here when I'm done.


  1. #2 on your list is an outdated version of #3. It's a nice read, but not good as an introduction or a reference. It's nicer as a historical perspective than anything else.

  2. I agree with Zach about #2. Way out of date.

    Practical Common Lisp is a pretty good book and the online version is free:

  3. Also:

    Practical Common Lisp:

  4. Craig,

    +1 for Practical Common Lisp.

    A few links that might be useful in your quest:

    and, which indexes content from Practical Common Lisp, Successful Lisp, On Lisp, the HyperSpec, and documentation strings from SBCL. In addition, example code is taken from PCL, PAIP, ANSI Common Lisp, and a bunch of ASDF-installable libraries.

  5. Wow! Great feedback. Thanks everyone!

  6. I found these lecture notes to be helpful:

    And this (Scheme) book may be useful too:

  7. One new subscriber from Anothr Alerts

  8. Gr8 Craig..

    Excellent for newbie.s like me who are starting their career in programming

  9. well, i great to be here. I am also looking forward to LISP but my back ground is not form any language i am a commerce student but i want to learn LISP. Is there any one who could help me in getting me started wiht the basic of LISP. I know its not so easy to go through but i am ready to do the labor so please help me my email address is ( . i would be waiting for your replies please help me. I would be glad to get a help from you all.