Paul Graham's Review of SICP

Oct 21, 2021 12:11 · 263 words · 2 minutes read scheme reviews programming

Here is Paul Graham’s review of SICP which you can read from Amazon here. What I like about it is that he has some useful and interesting things to say about reading difficult content.

This is one of the great classics of computer science. I bought my first copy 15 years ago, and I still don’t feel I have learned everything the book has to teach. I have learned enough to write a couple books on Lisp that (currently) have four to five stars. Yet SICP, which is pretty much the bible of our world, has only three? How can this be? Reading the reviews made it clear what happened. An optimistic professor somewhere has been feeding SICP to undergrads who are not ready for it. But it is encouraging to see how many thoughtful people have come forward to defend the book.

Let’s see if we can put this in terms that the undergrads will understand – a problem set:

  1. Kenneth Clark said that if a lot of smart people have liked something that you don’t, you should try and figure out what they saw in it. List 10 qualities that SICP’s defenders have claimed for it.
  2. How is the intention of SICP different from that of Knuth? Kernighan & Ritchie? An algorithms textbook?
  3. Does any other book fulfill this purpose better?
  4. What other programming books first published in the mid 1980s are still relevant today?
  5. Could the concepts in this book have been presented any better in a language other than Scheme?
  6. Who is al? Why is his name in lowercase?