Comments on Paradigms of AI Programming

In which readers comment on Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming, comparing it favorably to Abelson and Sussman, Knuth, and Shakespeare.

Recent Comments

For me PAIP has changed the way I think about programming more than any other book. - Ivar Refsdal in a blog post

Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming is one of the best books of computer science that I have ever read. I put it up there in the pantheon with Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. I have found more useful and mind expanding material in these case studies than I have in many other books on computer science. I highly recommend this book to anyone, even if they have never used Lisp. - Thomas DeBenning in review at

One of the best programming books in existence, IMHO - Journal of spur

This book has been called "The best book on programming ever written". I'd have to agree--it is certainly the best that I've ever read. ... This book transcends language, time, and subject matter. It is a programmer's book for the ages. - Randall Helzerman

Published (Paper and Online) Reviews

Norvig's Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming is a splendid work that skillfully weaves together three threads: (1) AI, (2) programming skills in general, and (3) programming skills in Common Lisp in particular. It is written with great intelligence and insight and can benefit a wide audience from advanced undergraduates to seasoned researchers. It is a book that should be in the permanent collection of every AI aficionado because it is such a rich source of ideas and examples. ... I have used this book with great success as a supplement in an introductory graduate AI course, the text in a graduate AI course focusing on techniques, and a resource in my research group. ... The code in this book is well written and edifying and pleasurable to read ... This book can lead to a deep appreciation of the unique strengths of Lisp ... - Prof. Robert Futrelle (Northeastern), AI Magazine, Winter 1994

The publication of a promising new textbook is always a source of excitement for educators. This is especially true when the text promises to break new ground both in content and style. Peter Norvig's Paradigms of AI Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp is such a book. This book should be on the desk of everyone who needs to program in Common Lisp, build AI systems, or teach the topics. ...

From the perspective of a modern Lisp programming text ... Paradigms goes far beyond any textbook I've seen. ... For a book that is primarily a programming text, Paradigms holds up remarkably well when viewed as an AI textbook. The material covered in the chapters on game playing, symbolic mathematics, knowledge representation and natural language processing are arguably more comprehensive and reflective of modern practice than the equivalent treatments in either Winston's third edition Artificial Intelligence or Rich and Knight's Artificial Intelligence.

I have successfully taught a graduate class on AI programming three times using this book. Paradigms has been well-received by the students in each offering. - Prof. James Martin (Colorado), AI Journal, Nov. 1993

Norvig's book is absorbing reading. Norvig is a gifted narrator, and he explains concepts in a simple yet clear manner. ...

Norvig's book contains pertinent information for intermediate and advanced AI and Lisp programming and is thus a good supplement to other introductory textbooks. The book is noteworthy in that it addresses issues that a keen student of Lisp and AI would want to know about: What (precisely) are the attributes of Lisp and AI that set it apart from other languages? Is CLOS really object-oriented? Are frames and objects the same? What are higher-order predicates? ...

Norvig's two-phased approach for performance optimization (i.e., apply the general techniques before implementing language-specific improvements) is one of the most comprehensive treatments I have come across. A beneficial "side-effect" is that Norvig's graduated examples provide a wealth of information on Common Lisp: the reader is systematically acquainted with many useful functions; and, at various points in his examples, Norvig highlights pitfalls that may arise from the misue of certain Common Lisp features.

Norvig's book has broadened my horizons considerably, and I particularly appreciate the integrative approach. ... - JooFung Wong, AI Journal, Nov. 1993

This is an overview of classical artificial intelligence (AI) programming via actual implementation of landmark systems (case studies). For the student interested in AI, Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming is an invaluable history lesson. Even the programmer who is relatively uninterested in AI will find value in the book's basic introduction to Lisp and case studies written in Lisp. But perhaps the book's best feature is its information on efficiency considerations in Lisp. Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming is worth purchasing for these discussions alone, which provide a wealth of useful guidelines for optimizing your code. - (see a review of Lisp books at Amazon)

Provides an in-depth exposition of advanced AI programming techniques and includes large-scale detailed examples. The book is the most advanced AI/Common-Lisp programming text and reference currently available. ... The text is marked by its use of "non-toy" examples to illustrate techniques. - Mark Kantrowitz (CMU), comp.lang.lisp Frequently Asked Questions

>I would like to find the best book on Lisp Programming that there is on the
>Market. Anyone with a suggestion please post the title, ISBN, or author.

"Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp" is just amazing, the best I've ever seen. It's clear, practical and packed with a huge amount of interesting content. I've collected dozens of lisp books over the years and this one stands far above the rest in my opinion. Check it out! - Dan Winkler (General Magic), in comp.lang.lisp

This is the best book on how to use LISP. It illustrates actual LISP programming techniques on real-life examples, not toy programs. Rating: ***** (out of 5; the only Lisp book with that rating). - Anonymous, (Berkeley Undergrad Association)

Reactions from Academia

I tell my students to think of Steele's book as the Oxford English Dictionary and Norvig's as the complete works of Shakespeare. - Prof. Wendy Lenhert (Massachusetts)

It not only contains just about every major AI technique in use, but also is an excellent book on learning Common Lisp, even if you're not interested in AI. - Prof. Bill Anderson (Maryland)

First, I think the concept behind the book-illustrating CL programming techniques by building up versions of real AI programs-is an excellent one. The process of developing AI programs is hard enough for most students (most of mine, anyways), and seeing the translation from concept to implementation could really help there. Second, the manuscript is (stylistically) exceptionally well-written. I've reviewed or used a fairly large number of books in the area; by comparison, Norvig's writing style is a pleasure to read. - Prof. Robert McCartney (Connecticut)

I have learned much I didn't know ... something that is relatively rare in the usual crop of "basic" LISP texts. [Chapter 6] is a very useful and advanced chapter, in my opinion. memoize and defun* were true works of beauty. ... This [book] will find its way to the desk of many AI Programming practitioners, where Steele, Common Lisp the Reference, and Keene's CLOS book are currently the only "required" texts. - Marty Hall (Johns Hopkins)

Paradigms is a thorough, modern treatment of AI programming techniques which describes both the pleasures and pitfalls of writing in Common Lisp. I hope it becomes the standard text for the teaching of undergraduate AI courses. - Prof. James Hendler (Maryland)

In simple, easily digestible steps, [Norvig] takes the reader from classic problem solvers such as GPS to state-of-the-art applications like unification grammars ... This book is a joy to read, and should be anyone's first choice for a hands-on AI course. - Prof. David Touretzky (Carnegie Mellon)

This book contains far and away the best example [programs] I have seen to date. - Prof. Bruce D'Ambrosio (Oregon State)

I find the pedagogical style bracing and invigorating. - Prof. Michael Covington (Georgia)

I keep it on my desk, right next to CLtL/2 and the dpANS. - Brad Miller (Rochester)

An excellent book on AI programming in general that isn't afraid to reveal the grubby details. - Prof. Drew McDermott (Yale)

Norvig is very good; brilliant comparisons between Prolog and Lisp. - Peyman Faratin (University of London)

The accepted classic introduction to classical artificial intelligence programming ... Best of breed. - Jeff Prothero (University of Washington)

I think that Norvig's book is one of the few that do justice to modern Common Lisp programming. - William G. Dubuque (MIT)

"Paradigms of AI Programming" is one of the very best books I've ever seen and I learned a lot reading it. - Michael Wein (German Research Center for AI) Now this text contains nothing "new": but my goodness it does lots of "old" things so succinctly!!! e.g. Bobrows entire phd thesis in less than 33 pages, with full source code and comments - Dr. Tim Menzies (University of New South Wales)

Reactions from Industry

One of the most commonly recommended books (Norvig's) is very strong on ways to speed up programs, and carefully transforms programs to make them "industrial-strength". I haven't seen anything as good in any book on any other programming language. ... What Norvig does, better than any other book I have seen in computer science, is to show how to start with an idea, implement it, test it, expand on it, and essentially go to an efficient implementation. - David Thornley

one of the best programming books of all time Jamie Hamilton

The author's programming style also seems well-developed; I don't believe that I've seen such lucid Common Lisp (no pun intended) in any of the other texts that I've been reading lately. - Paul Snively (Apple Computers)

A book that I can recommend to experienced software developers that they will use and enjoy. ... The honesty and matter-of-fact style will appeal to those who have "seen it all" in software development (or at least think they have). - Mary Boelk (Johnson Controls)

I found this book to compare favorably with Abelson and Sussman-it's clear, is based around examples and around modifying them to fix defects and extend their scope, and I would recommend it to my colleagues and to training courses at TI. - Paul Fuqua (Texas Instruments)

This book will become one of the classics. It goes further than any other text currently available for teaching advanced Lisp coding techniques and giving the reader a perspective on AI programming. ... I think this book will be a classic for Common Lisp as Abelson and Sussman's is for Scheme. ... I wish this text existed 5 years ago when I came to MCC. It could have "saved" Lisp here. - David D. Loeffler (MCC)

The best programming book I've ever read. I wish it had come out much earlier in my AI career. - Kevin Thompson (NASA Ames Research Center)

You can't hand a student CLtL2 and expect them to learn Lisp. A book like Norvig's is ideal for teaching Lisp. I ran all of Norvig's [code] from within the MCL environment and learned a lot about many of the gnarly features of closures and functions returning functions, etc. - Rich Parker (SONNET Networking)

Reactions from Students

One of the best books I have ever read. ... I cannot praise it enough. ... exceptionally well written.

[A] wonderful book. It's one of the best books I've ever read in AI.

Concepts and implementations are presented with excellent clarity throughout the text. In fact, this is one of the best books I have read on a topic in science.

One of the best written books on the field. ... It really helped me see how things work from the inside and took away the awe I used to have for anything involving AI. It shows in detail how things work, what is the motivation and the reasoning behind every choice that is made ... so the reader can follow the thinking of the writer and doesn't feel lost in the mass of code presented in the book.

The first book of those I've ever seen before which gave me a feeling of participation in a construction of a real AI system ... Lisp programming style is exceptional, and many useful routines ... can be used as excellent patterns for writing good style and clear programs. ... I really like the exercises from this book.

I felt frustrated at times in my course work trying to connect theory with functioning code. Paradigms of AI Programming solved these frustrations in a hurry. ... I work in the real world of MIS programming and see the importance of systems built out of modules every day. It has always been a sore point with me to be using a textbook that provides a disjointed set of examples that have no real cohesiveness. The modularity and cohesiveness of the code in this text encourages expansion into even more functional areas.

A miracle to the Lisp and AI worlds. I would have liked to use this book for both my Programming Language Principals class and my AI class!

I have found the Peter Norvig book enlightening as far as the AI goes as well as the elegant programming.

It is excellently written and full of great exemples.

Very good ... features elegant Common Lisp code throughout

The book is to Lisp as Knuth's Art of Programming is to assembly programming.


Superb. - Prof. Richard A. O'Keefe (RMIT)
Excellent. - Carsten Schroeder (Hamburg)
Awesome. - David Yost (Apple)
Invaluable. - Zebadiah Kimmel (Illinois)
Marvelous. - George Williams (Boeing Computer Services)
Wonderful. - Prof. Joyce Friedman (BU)
Wonderful. - Mike Wirth (Petroleum Information Corp.)
Wonderful. - Toshi Matsui (Stanford and ETL, Japan)
Great book. - Matt Hovey (Cambridge Technology Partners)
Beautiful job. - Prof. Stan Kwasny (Washington University)
A really nice job! - Prof. Dan Weld (Washington)
Excellent ... excellent ... excellent. - Prof. James Allen (Rochester)
Well written and very informative. - Tom Nurkkala (Minnesota)
Qualifies [Norvig] as the guru to gurus. - Prof. Jordan Pollack (Ohio State)
Probably the best Common Lisp text overall. - Jeff Dalton (Edinburgh) in comp.lang.lisp
One of the best programming books of all time - Jamie Hamilton (AnswerLogic)
Possibly the best hardcore programming book ever. - Gareth McCaughan in comp.lang.lisp

Peter Norvig