Urban Hafner

Ruby, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript programmer. Dabbling with Rust and agile methodologies on the side.

Book Review: Land of Lisp by Conrad Barski

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Land of Lisp by Conrad Barski is the second book in the Ruby Rogues book club. As I enjoyed Eloquent Ruby (which was the first book we read) very much I thought I’d give that one a try, too. And of course I hadn’t used Lisp for a long time so I thought it would be a good refresher.

The first thing you see when you pick up the book is the awesome cover. The somewhat poorly drawn Lisp Alien that Conrad Barski created some years ago as the mascot of Lisp sets the tone for the book: This isn’t just another dry textbook that explains everything that Lisp (Common Lisp in this case) does. It contains drawings and you learn not by writing yet another calculator but by writing games.

Of course he’s starting with the basic elements of Lisp so the first games are quite simple, but as the book progresses (he’s even covering macros and lazy programming) they get more complex and in the end we’re even presented with a board game with a GUI that you play in a browser against three computer players!

Ideally you should follow along by typing in the code and experimenting a bit to really understand all the concepts. But up to a certain point in the book it’s also OK to just read along. That’s what I did because I read the book in the evening on the couch or in the bed. Of course I didn’t understand everything with this approach, but it worked well enough for me as most code examples are explained in detail.

All in all it was a fun read and it was great so see how you program in a language where code and data are more or less equal. I’m not sure how much of that will translate into my Ruby or JavaScript programming but what the heck it was a fun read!