Books play a key role in prepping you for the UPSC exam. Every UPSC aspirant may be looking for the ideal materials to help them achieve their most important aims. On the market, there are thousands of UPSC preparation books for beginners. This makes deciding on the best books for UPSC beginners even more difficult. This broad array of possibilities perplexes every dedicated student when it comes to determining the original UPSC and IAS Prelims books. This article contains the top 15 important books that must be read by every UPSC aspirant.
IAS books are regarded crucial during the preparation process. IAS toppers and tutors emphasise the need of reading the best books available on the market, both online and offline. The core concepts are the same in all books, but how they are applied makes all the difference, which is why some books are regarded as the finest. The most important thing is to choose appropriate or top books for IAS preparation that are both relevant and useful.
On a shaky foundation, no magnificent structure can be built. Building a super-strong infrastructure requires a solid foundation. This applies to those who are prepping for civil service exams. The NCERT books are considered the foundational reading materials for the Civil Services Examination. It covers all major issues and provides us with crystal clear intellectual clarity. It ensures that aspirants are no longer beginners after thoroughly reading them. As a result, NCERT Books can also be used to assess and enhance one’s performance. But they are insufficient to cover the complete UPSC CSE Prelims and Mains syllabus. Aspirants should study Standard Textbooks in addition to NCERTs. Standard Textbooks are produced by subject specialists in an exam-oriented manner, with each subject/topic in the UPSC CSE syllabus explicitly targeted.
Here are top 15 book suggestions for the aspirants:
1. Challenges to Internal Security of India – Ashok Kumar and Vipul Anekant (General Studies)
The goal of this totally rewritten and updated edition is to present comprehensive viewpoints on the topics and challenges surrounding the theme of ‘Indian Internal Security Challenges.’ It is designed in a comprehensive and transparent manner to cover every aspect of the UPSC examination’s Third General Studies Paper. Each syllabus topic has been broken down into twelve chapters to provide a comprehensive theoretical overview. This updated edition includes three annexures that provide a comprehensive overview of government strategies on internal security and challenges.
The book is by Ashok Kumar IPS and Vipul Anekant DANIPS. Ashok Kumar earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi. He joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1989 and has worked in UP and Uttarakhand on a variety of demanding tasks. On deputation, he also served with the CRPF and the BSF.
2. Geography of India by Majid Husain (Geography)
The book “Geography of India” is aimed mostly at students studying for competitive exams. The most popular title is now in its ninth edition. The book is a well-known guide and a best-seller in the field. It’s a well-known reference book that covers all aspects of India’s geographical geography in a methodical and thorough manner. Resources of India, various methods of irrigation, Indian farming patterns, transportation and public distribution systems, food security, calamities, and government initiatives are among the themes discussed.
Prof. Majid Husain will be regarded as a legendary Indian academician. Prof. Majid Husain received his early schooling at Manglaur’s Nehru Inter College. He has produced and edited over 4 dozen books and had a remarkable capacity to elucidate difficult subjects in Geography in a straightforward and convincing manner. He was an internationally renowned Indian geographer who made significant contributions to the field of geography through several publications, research projects, and university teaching. His innovative teaching technique enabled students to grasp even the most difficult concepts. He taught the entire optional module of Geography, Geography for Prelims, Environment and Ecology, and also mentored his students for the personality test.
3. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania (Culture)
This book is an excellent resource for UPSC aspirants at all levels of the examination: preliminary, mains, and interview. Nitin Singhania’s new edition of Indian Art & Culture is now available to buy in both online and offline locations. The cultural diversity of India is well-known. The novel by Nitin Singhania eloquently depicts the essence of India’s unique culture. Despite the fact that there are numerous books about Indian culture, Nitin Singhania’s book has captivated UPSC candidates owing to its special presentation.
Nitin Singhania is a member of the Indian Administrative Service’s 2013 class (IAS). He is also a Chartered Accountant. He passed the UPSC Civil Services test with Economics as an elective. He is a member of the IAS 2013 class and currently works for the Government of West Bengal as a Joint Secretary.
4. Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri (International Relations)
The book provides a strategic and policy-oriented look at India’s existing and upcoming foreign policy difficulties. It examines the long-term variables and trends that should influence how the country formulates its foreign policy. If India is to become a key role in the complicated and fast changing world of the twenty-first century, the author suggests a rethinking of its strategy. The focus of Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy is on India’s immediate and strategic surroundings. It also looks at critical topics including energy security, economic diplomacy, defence-diplomacy interactions, and foreign policy institutions.
Rajiv Sikri served in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 36 years as a career diplomat. He left the Ministry of External Affairs as Secretary in 2006.
The book is unique in that it incorporates the viewpoints of a historian, a diplomat, and a scholar. It contributes significantly to India’s strategic community’s continuing discussion on foreign policy by offering many novel and unconventional thoughts and policy suggestions. Policymakers, diplomats, and foreign policy analysts should read this simple and brief work. It will be of professional interest to the corporate and commercial communities. Students of Indian politics, international relations, defence and strategic studies, and those interested in India’s foreign policy will find it useful.
5. Oxford School Atlas by Oxford Publishers (Geography)
This is for those who are preparing for a government job exam or university exams. This book provides a wealth of useful thematic maps of India, including 16 maps concentrating on Indian climate, 22 maps focusing on Indian agriculture, 23 maps focusing on minerals and industries, 17 maps focusing on demography and human development, and 10 maps focused on environmental concerns. This book contains the most up-to-date demographic and socioeconomic data from reliable sources.
There are different physical and political maps of India in this book. It includes new and useful India themed maps. This book covers all of the continents in detail. Facts and Figures is a fresh and interesting area. Since its first publication in 1915, generations of students, researchers, and general readers have relied on The Oxford School Atlas for its accuracy and richness of cartographic data. The atlas includes 235 clear and easy-to-understand maps, including 121 thematic maps of India with accompanying charts and illustrations.
6. Indian Economy for Civil Services by Nitin Singhania (Economy)
In recent years, the Indian economy has seen significant changes, including a series of swings in economic growth and development. Nitin Singhania’s book, Indian Economy, is an attempt to write down economic issues and the necessary actions by stakeholders. The contents have been organised in a logical and conceptually clear manner to allow readers to grasp the material completely and thoroughly. Flowcharts, tables, graphs, pictures, and other visual aids have been used to help students understand and comprehend the concepts in a short length of time.
Nitin Singhania holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics. He is a member of the IAS 2013 class and currently works for the Government of West Bengal as a Joint Secretary. He’s also the author of “Indian Art and Culture,” a best-selling book.
7. International Relations: Pushpesh Pant (International Relations)
The book would be of great use to students studying for the civil services examination as well as specialised courses relating to the subject in universities and colleges, as it is written with an academic tone from a student’s perspective. This UPSC book explores all key events from the creation of sovereign states to current global challenges. It is the favourite of all students who are taking competitive exams.
The Padma Shri-winning author is an academician and historian who retired from Jawaharlal Nehru University as a professor of International Studies. Pushpesh Pant is an academic, cuisine critic, and historian from India. He left Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi as a Professor of International Relations.
8. Environmental Ecology, Bio-Diversity, Climate Change & Disaster Management – Dr Ravi Agrahari (Environment)
This is a stand-out book about environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change, and disaster management. Each chapter provides a practical technical solution to an existing environmental problem while also covering basic to advanced environmental and disaster management topics in one book. This book provides a quick, relevant, and easy way to achieve exam success by combining both principles and actual suggestions for solutions to deal with a wide and complex syllabus. This is an optimistic, proactive book about the ground breaking career of a well-known practitioner.
Dr. Ravi P. Agrahari, a Ph.D. from IIT Delhi, is a holder of the CSIR’s Junior Research Fellowship and Senior Research Fellowship. He is an energy expert who has published numerous papers in prestigious international journals. Dr. Agrahari is well-known for his knowledge of “Environmental Science” and “Science and Technology,” and has written multiple books for UPSC examinations on the subjects. Dr. Agrahari has been teaching UPSC hopefuls for over 19 years and has worked with over 50 reputable coaching facilities across India. He also works with a number of non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations to help students from underrepresented groups.
9. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh (Economy)
The book has become an “indispensable companion” for Civil Services test candidates. It is one of the most recommended books on the subject and one of the “best-sellers” of all time. It includes all of the fundamental principles as well as the most up-to-date information, all of which are linked to current events in India. All of the concepts and theories are covered in the book to help the reader create a ‘fundamental’ and ‘application-based’ understanding of economics, as well as its subtle links to real-world policy issues and the fields of governance, polity, diplomacy, ethics, technology, and so on, in an interdisciplinary manner — making economics accessible to even those with no prior knowledge of the subject.
Ramesh Singh is a Delhi School of Economics alumnus and an education consultant with more than two decades of expertise advising civil service and other exam candidates. He also contributes to the Publication Division’s Yojana and Kurukshetra periodicals as a columnist. He is a master instructor, capable of clearly and concisely explaining even the most complex economic ideas. His economics courses and essays are well-received around the country. He is a Delhi resident who is involved in a variety of intellectual and social activities.
10. Indian Polity – Civil Services Examinations by M Laxmikanth (Polity)
The book is required reading for hopefuls taking the Civil Services and other State Services examinations. It is designed to meet the needs of not only competitive examination students, but also postgraduates, research scholars, professors, and general readers interested in the country’s political, civic, and constitutional issues. The existing chapters have been completely reworked and updated to reflect current events. This UPSC book, sometimes called as the “Bible of Politics,” provides a thorough understanding of the subject. Going over the book several times can help you get good results in both the prelims and mains. One of the most popular UPSC prep books.
M. Laxmikanth is a trainer and author. Apart from this book, Laxmikanth has published Governance in India, Indian Polity, and Public Administration for the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination. In 1989, Laxmikanth received his master’s degree from Osmania University.
11. Important Judgements that Transformed India by Alex Andrews George (Polity)
“Important Judgments that Transformed India” is a book that explains the important court cases that everyone should be aware of. Many of these Supreme Court judgements have influenced the way India’s democracy now operates. It’s fascinating to see how Supreme Court decisions have safeguarded the spirit of the Indian Constitution, improved democracy, and changed the lives of ordinary Indians. This book meets the needs of numerous competitive examinations, including the UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims, Mains, and Interview). All academics, legal students, and general readers interested in Indian politics and the constitution will find it useful.
Andrews, Alex George is the creator of the popular ClearIAS.com website. He is a problem-solver with a wide range of expertise and interests, having graduated as an engineer. As an edupreneur, technologist, blogger, and teacher, he wears many hats. His notes, methods, assistance, and mock examinations have helped thousands of applicants pass various stages of the UPSC Civil Services exam every year as one of the pioneers in online Civil Services exam tutoring.
12. India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma (History)
The book India’s Ancient Past offers a thorough history of ancient India. From the earliest human beings in India through the early Medieval period, the author of the book investigates the civilizations and social systems that existed in India. There have been several geographical and language backgrounds explored. The author has also looked into certain cultures such as the Harappan Civilization, Neolithic, and Vedic periods.
India’s Ancient Past opens with a chapter on ancient Indian history and its importance, followed by a list of comprehensive maps from the historical periods covered in the book. The book then moves on to the stone age and the Neolithic period in the following chapters. People began to produce food throughout the Neolithic period. By that time, animal husbandry had also begun.
Other aspects of India’s ancient past, such as Chalcolithic Cultures and the Harappan Civilization, are highlighted. The author also goes into great length about Aryan culture. The book explains the rise of religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Invasions by Macedonians and Iranians have also been mentioned. The following chapters go on to detail India’s interactions with various Central Asian kingdoms, the emergence and fall of the Gupta empire, and philosophical advances.
R. S. Sharma, the author of India’s Ancient Past, was a renowned historian who taught at Patna University, the University of Toronto, and Delhi University. During his lifetime, he was able to publish 115 works that were converted into fifteen languages. He was the Head of History Departments at Delhi and Patna Universities. His writing was engaging and informative because he was regarded a specialist of epigraphy, literary texts, and archaeological texts.
13. A History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra (History)
India’s current status is the result of a number of historical events. Satish Chandra’s history book contains a selection of these events. The 1000-year period covered in this book spans the seventh to seventeenth centuries, and it describes the order of events as well as the empires that dominated different parts of the country. With the rise of each new dynasty, there were many flaws that led to their demise, and historian Satish Chandra, who has a comprehensive understanding of historical events, dissects the many reasons for their demise in depth.
Satish Chandra is a well-known historian who specialised in Indian mediaeval history and taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was also the chairman of India’s University Grants Commission and the president of the Indian History Congress. Satish Chandra is widely regarded as India’s most prominent historian and regarded as the country’s foremost expert on Mughal reign. When his book on mediaeval Indian history was published as a textbook for schools and colleges, it revolutionised the national curriculum.
14. Certificate of Physical & Human Geography by GC Leong (Geography)
This book contains a lot of the necessary geographical knowledge. For this reason, students taking competitive admission examinations or hoping to pass competitive examinations given by the Union Public Service Commission for several government positions rely heavily on the book (UPSC). The book is split into two parts. The first is on physical geography, and it contains detailed information about existing land masses, oceans, types of winds, rivers, glaciation, mountain types, groundwater, rainfall and its global patterns, and other natural phenomena. The second portion goes over the many climatic zones around the world, including Savanna, Steppe, Mediterranean, Equatorial, and Tropical Monsoon Climate.
Goh Cheng Leong is well-known for his writings on geography and related themes. He has also written Elements of Geography and Human and Economic Geography, in addition to this book.
15. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe (History)
With the use of underlined words, keywords, and headings throughout the book, the reader is clearly informed about all aspects of Modern World History. The book also includes clear references that the reader will find extremely helpful. International Relations, fascism and communism, international conflicts, decolonization, and other global issues are all covered in this book. The content consists of from 1900 to 2012, a look at international relations and wars, as well as Europe and its history, including the rise and collapse of fascism and communism, the major superpowers’ international affairs – the United States, Russia/USSR, and China – International strife, the Holocaust, 9/11, and Saddam Hussein’s overthrow the rise of political Islam, as well as decolonization and following events in Africa, Climate change, economic crises, population ‘explosion,’ and other global issues There includes mention of historians’ differences and controversies, as well as new interpretations and discoverers.
Norman Lowe has extensive experience teaching history at all levels, serving as Head of History at Nelson and Colne MA26 in Lancashire for 25 years. Mastering Modern British History and Mastering Twentieth-Century Russian History are two of his books.
Some Important Tips for the Aspirants
Apart from these books, there are a few additional things to bear in mind if you want to pass the UPSC exam with excellent grades:
- A deep understanding and grasp of the subject is the most crucial requirement for civils preparation. Despite the Civil Services’ extensive and detailed syllabus, many candidates fail at this stage. Effective preparation requires a full understanding of the syllabus’s nature, clarity, and scope. It might help you decide what to read and what to avoid. Every aspirant is strongly advised to keep a copy of the curriculum with them at all times during the exam. This will assist the candidate in determining whether or not a certain topic should be covered, as well as ensuring that no area or topic is overlooked.
- Aspirants should also review previous years’ question papers. It aids in selecting the type of questions to be asked as well as locating the finest reading material. An examination of prior year’s papers can assist put the syllabus into context by showing the areas where more questions have been asked. It may also be useful in finding any trends in the paper. It’s a good idea to break down the syllabus’s contents into subtopics and go over the question papers again. It also aids in understanding the nature of the questions being asked. On the plus side, there’s a chance that certain questions from prior years will be asked again.
- A thorough understanding of the syllabus allows one to connect with what is being read. For example, someone who knows the UPSC curriculum well may be able to tie an article in the newspaper to a section of the syllabus while reading it. It facilitates a smooth and seamless transition from the static syllabus to current events. Current events are the key to passing the Civil Services Examination. One must attempt to connect various stories and ideas seen in newspapers.
- Follow the newest global headlines. Current Affairs is not a distinct subject to be studied, but rather an integral part of the UPSC curriculum. Current events and current problems are, in fact, the most active areas in all of the syllabus topics in terms of the examination. Frequently read a newspaper and a magazine.
- It’s usually a good idea to take notes on everything you read, whether it’s newspapers or current affairs magazines, or the fundamentals of the many courses presented in coaching. Making notes is a good way to remember things. Also, theme-based and structured notes come in assistance when revising the large UPSC syllabus that has been covered over time. Making notes with mind maps, flow charts, short-cut approaches, and other methods aids in quick review and memory.
- Coaching is the most critical part in cracking the Civils. Choosing the right coaching partner is crucial since it will help set the foundation for the Civils’ dream. Concentrate on the lessons being given and create a habit of taking notes. Coaching institutes also provide tests that can be used to determine one’s present level of preparation.
- Beginning your preparation with the fundamentals is always an excellent approach. The best source for acquiring clarity and a good grasp on a variety of subjects is NCERT books. The UPSC does not test for specialist expertise, but rather tests for general knowledge and, more significantly, analytical abilities in the Prelims and writing and presentation skills in the Mains. Civil Services applicants frequently become weighed down with content by consulting many books at once. Concentrate on a few books at a time, including the NCERTs and one or two books per subject recommended by professors. It is more vital to be thorough with the substance than the number of books.
- Cultivate the habit of thinking, in order to make connections between various topics or subjects. During the interviews, there is a lot of cross-questioning, and this strategy aids in being well-prepared on any issue. If a news piece mentions the Public Accounts Committee, for example, it must remind the candidate of the Public Accounts Committee’s position and tasks, which are previously covered in textbooks. Additionally, the candidate must be able to connect the two elements. This strategy also creates a lasting imprint of the subject, making it simple to recall during the exam and interview.
- Many applicants are undecided about the optional subject to pursue. When selecting on an optional subject, many people seek advice from others. Instead, the optional subject should be something about which one is both comfortable and confident. Also, do not base your decision on how candidates performed in the subject in past years. Choose an option in which you are confident and can find sufficient reading material as well as assistance. Generally, candidates should choose an optional in something they have a strong interest.
- The internet assists in staying informed about current events. It’s a good way to stay current, especially with the optional subject. It’s also crucial to find a good, “trusted” source and stay with it, because referring to ten different sources at once isn’t as effective as referring to one source ten times.
- Aspirants for the civil service should develop a habit to get up early every day and read the newspaper first. Do not put off the project until later in the day; even if you have difficulty absorbing the topic at first, it will all fall into place over time. Many people struggle to understand the language or the subject at first, but with repeated attempts, results begin to emerge.
- Reading a newspaper takes about 40 minutes to an hour on average. There may well be days when the paper is light and only takes 30 minutes, so aim for an average of 40 minutes. Sunday might be set aside as a revision day for all of the current problems encountered throughout the previous week. Revision is just as vital as learning new material.
- Appearing for mock tests is an excellent way to supplement your continuing preparation. It introduces the exam format, frequent mistakes to avoid, and scoring systems, among other things. Mock examinations are also a great way to prepare for the final exam. At this level, applicants should focus on the MCQs rather than essay preparation.
- The curriculum is divided into sections, each of which is significant and is covered in the syllabus. If History were the only significant topic, for example, the entire curriculum would be History. As a result, give each subject equal time. Make detailed notes because you may be referring to numerous books on the same topic. In the last phases of exam preparation, a 100-page book could be reduced to 20-25 pages in the form of notes, making it simpler to revise.
- Writing abilities do not improve instantly, but rather over time. Daily writing practise is essential. Pick select a newspaper editorial and rework it in your own words. There may be candidates that have a slow writing speed and are looking for solutions to this problem. Such applicants will benefit from practise tests.
- These practise examinations not only assist all candidates in preparation for the mains, whether they are fast or slow paced, but also in understanding time management. Even fast-paced applicants with strong writing speed may initially be unable to complete the practise tests within the allotted time, but they ultimately learn to manage their time and thus begin to learn and attempt the tests in their entirety.
- It is not possible for anybody to memorize the book after its first reading. The first reading should be to familiarise oneself with the contents, the second reading should be a remembrance, and the third reading will aid in memory. Also, each one has a different pace when it comes to memorizing, and thus learning must happen at an individual’s specific pace only.
- If you’re short on time, consider using flowcharts instead of text-based solutions. A flowchart can easily summarise the entire answer. Similarly, tables are useful for presenting any type of data. Rather than burying material in the text and making it harder for the examiner to find, use tables to make the answer more appealing.
- Begin the answers with a brief overview of the topic or keyword. In this area, always provide context for the answer. The body of the answer is made up of the answer to the specific question that was posed. Divide the question into sections to give the answer several dimensions. Finally, the ending should always be upbeat and forward-looking.
The above-mentioned information could serve as a beginner’s guide to passing the UPSC civil services test by reading the important books. Remember, it’s always about the quality, not the number. Rather than gaining half-knowledge from numerous publications, choose the ideal book and devote your entire attention to it. For any subject, IAS aspirants should avoid using a huge number of books. Only standard books and study materials should be used. Rather than looking for fresh study material, they should concentrate on revising the classic works over and again. While reading any of the topics, use a pointer to highlight the key words, paragraphs, and equations for a better and faster understanding. Make it a habit to take notes when preparing from recommended sources, books, or study materials so you can review them quickly. Happy Learning dear aspirants!!