LISP is discussed in some detail in the book "Metamagical Themas" by Douglas Hofstadter. He describes how since in LISP it is easy to write recursive functions, and programs and data are both represented in the same way, as lists, LISP could be a good language to use for Artificial Intelligence. He gives several example LISP programs, including one to solve the Tower of Hanoi puzzle and one to expand recursive acronyms to a given depth.

Here's some simple example LISP code. These examples use Emacs LISP. To try them out, start emacs and type "Meta-X lisp-interaction-mode". After typing each LISP expression, press Ctrl-J to have it evaluated.

The hello world program is completely trivial; just type

'(hello world) Ctrl-J

and you'll get back the output "(hello world)". The single quotation mark at the beginning means "Don't try to do anything with this list, like treating hello as a function, just treat it as a single unit".

Now here's how to count from 1 to 10 in LISP. You could just type '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10), of course, but the method below is more flexible as it allows the program to count arbitrarily high. Type the following into your emacs session, then type Ctrl-J. You can leave out the lines beginning with semicolons, as these are comments which I've included to explain what the program is doing.

;; Define the recursive function "count".
;; (count x y) generates a list of integers from x to y inclusive.
(defun count (x y)
;; If x and y are the same, the output is (x).
  (cond ((= x y) (list x))
;; If x < y, the output is x followed by 
;;   the list of integers from x+1 to y.
        ((< x y) (cons x (count (+ 1 x) y)))
;; Otherwise (x>y), this function has been called with invalid
;; arguments.
        (t "ERROR"))

Now if you type (count 1 10) then Ctrl-J, you'll get back the correct list of numbers.