I’ve been learning LISP from LISP, and solving problems from Project Euler in LISP. Once you solve a problem, you gain access to the forum thread about that problem. After I solved Project Euler 10, I read someone else’s LISP solution; it was quite different to mine, and contained some LISP constructs I hadn’t seen before, e.g.

(defun seq-list (min max)
  (loop for i from min to max collect i)

I’d have written that like so:

(defun seq-list (lower-bound upper-bound)
      (current-number lower-bound)
      (result '())

      (when (> current-number upper-bound)
        (return result)
      (setf result (append result (list current-number)))
      (setf current-number (1+ current-number))

That’s 16 lines of code versus 3 lines of code. OK, I could knock at least 6 lines off mine by squishing closing parentheses onto earlier lines, but that’s ignoring the real problem: his code is simple and clear, whereas my code is all tangled up in the mechanics of declaring local variables, looping, and updating the list. A programmer who didn’t know LISP would probably understand his code, but wouldn’t have a clue what mine is doing.

I didn’t remember seeing syntax like that when reading the section on (loop) in my book, so I checked it out: it has nothing like that. There’s also nothing about (collect) in the index. I need to learn from a book that covers all of LISP, so that I can reasonably expect to understand other people’s code. I know that I’m writing baby-LISP (cute and helpless) at the moment, but I want to progress on to child-LISP (enthusiastic and energetic), teenage-LISP (angsty and rebellious), and finally adult-LISP (uh, serious and . . . my analogy has run out of steam). I don’t think there’s any point in learning from an incomplete textbook, because later I’ll need to start at the beginning of another textbook anyway. I’m putting Project Euler on hold until I find a better book; I might even redo some of the problems I’ve already solved.