The Missing Lisp Book

This question is asked all over the web: If Lisp is such a good language, why isn’t it as popular as Perl, Python, Ruby, Java, and so many others?

I am not going to give a definitive answer, because there isn’t one. But I will note that in the chapter The Dream Language in his 2004 book Hackers & Painters, Paul Graham discussed what’s needed to make a language popular. Besides aspects of the language itself, he wrote “At the moment I’d almost say that a language has to have a book published by O’Reilly. That’s becoming the test of mattering to hackers.”

This seems to be all we’re getting:

ORly Lisp Book

I made that cover with the O RLY Cover Generator, which is a lot of fun. And although the cover is a joke, my point is serious. A Lisp book from O’Reilly would be immensely valuable. I should do a cover for an O’Reilly Smalltalk book, too.


After I posted this yesterday, I was made aware that O’Reilly has published books on Clojure. Clojure is a Lisp, but I was thinking of a book with the word “Lisp” in the title that was about Common Lisp. Or the word “Scheme” in the title. Or “Smalltalk,” “Pharo,” or “Squeak”.