Sunday, April 18, 2004
Book Review: Object-Oriented Programming in Common Lisp
I just finished Object-Oriented Programming in Common Lisp: A Programmer's Guide to CLOS, by Sonja E. Keene. Here are my thoughts:
- The book is pretty expensive. It's fairly thin at just 266 pages, including the index, but the price is $39.99 USD. The amount of information you get for your money is pretty small. This may or may not bother you.
- The book covers CLOS in good detail, showing how to use various features like generic methods, generic dispatch, class inheritance, and initialization.
- The examples used in the book are fairly simplistic. They lack some of the meat that you'd expect in a book like this. There are two fundamental examples used throughout the book: a set of mutex locks, and a set of streams classes. I found the mutex locks to be particularly humorous since Common Lisp doesn't standardize threads. This isn't to say that the classes aren't useful as a learning tool, but they can't effectively be used in a standard CL implementation like SBCL, CMUCL, or CLISP without some amount of modification.
- The book has a nice reference section toward the end that details all the CLOS syntax for various forms. I think that this is the most useful part of the book, long term. The book is thin enough to be kept at the ready on a shelf close to your keyboard and pulled out for this section alone.
- The book is fairly old. The copyright date is 1989. No updates have taken place since that time. I don't think that CLOS has changed much, but I think the book is a bit dated. Some of the examples show a bit of history associated with the author's employer at the time, Symbolics.
In short, I found the book underwhelming. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it a 3. There are other introductions to CLOS that seem to give you a reasonable introduction without the high price. If you want to understand some of the more advanced CLOS programming techniques, like :before, :after, or :around, or method combination types, then this book has something good to offer. If you just need a short introduction to the basics, I think you could check out resources on the web and save your money.
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