When people ask about books for learning Lisp Conrad Barski’s Land of Lisp invariably gets mentioned. With a subtitle like “Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time!” and pages full of fun comics about strange looking aliens it is easy to mistake it for an introductory level text.

While few reviewers complain that Land of Lisp is poorly written, most of the less favourable reviews mention that the book moves too fast over complicated concepts.

“I feel like it’s going too fast and have issues understanding parts which the book does not explain, …. is this normal?”

In an interview with Ruby Rogues the author said that the really interesting stuff about Lisp is the more advanced concepts. He set out to write about these advanced concepts because the book would be pointless if they were not covered. His editor on the other hand wanted something more accessible to beginners and forced Conrad to slow down the pace and bring down the level of the content. So what started out as an advanced text ended up about intermediate.

“… my editor kept forcing me to make it simpler and simpler and slower and slower.” - Conrad Barski on Land of Lisp

The author commented twice on Hacker News that the book is definitely not aimed at people with zero programming experience. Even experienced programmers from other languages struggle with some of the more advanced sections in the book.

Should you read Land of Lisp?

Zero programming experience.
Don’t read the book. You will be lost. First learn Lisp basics from another beginner book and revisit Land of Lisp at a later stage.
Intermediate to advanced programmer with no Lisp experience.
Try the book but don’t feel beaten when you get lost. Have another beginner book at hand to help you through the rough patches.
Beginner to intermediate Lisp programmer.
You will probably find value in the book. It received positive reviews from most reviewers.
Advanced lisp programmer.
You don’t need to read this but you will be odd one out.