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UPSC Civil Services Exam: Books to prepare for Prelims and Mains, recommendations by expert

Here are some recommended books for UPSC aspirants — for prelims and mains — which can help them in preparing for what is considered one of the toughest exams

Written by Disha Roy Choudhury | New Delhi |
December 21, 2019 12:07:03 pm
upsc, upsc exam, upsc ias exam, upsc cse books, books for upsc, upsc topper, union public service commission,, employment news, sarkari naukri, sarkari naukri result, govt jobs Thousands of students appear for UPSC exams every year. (Representational image)

Candidates aiming to fill administrative positions in various All-India Service and central civil services like IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and IRTS, need to write the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination.

The exam is set in three parts: preliminary examination (usually held around May/June), main examination (around November), followed by a final interview (over March/April). The UPSC prelims comprise of two objective-type papers while the mains have two qualifying papers and seven others to be counted for merit, each of which has essay-type questions. Further details on eligibility, exam pattern and registration are available on the official website

Here are some recommended books for UPSC aspirants — for prelims and mains — which can help them in preparing for the examination:

UPSC Prelims


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1. A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum Publication): This book covers the entire syllabus for Ancient, Medieval and Modern History that condenses content from various sources into one.

2. NCERT books from Class 6 to 12 along with the Tamil Nadu History Textbook for Class 11

Read| How Kanishak Kataria topped UPSC in first attempt?


Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania (McGraw Hill Publication): This book offers a comprehensive insight into the field of Indian art, painting, music and architecture. At the end of each chapter are questions that help aspirants prepare well for their examination.


1. Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth: Aspirants can read the latest edition of this book which is comprehensive and covers a range of topics surrounding the country’s political and constitutional matters.

2. NCERT books for Class 9 to 12


1. The Indian Economy by Sanjiv Verma (Unique Publications): This book is a resourceful guide which explains the concepts associated with the Indian economy, throwing light on the past and present economic situation of the country.

2. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh (McGraw Hill Publication): This book can be read along with that of Verma. It provides the latest analysis of the country’s budget and development reports, and answers crucial questions on socio-economic issues.


1. NCERT books from Class 6-12

2. Aspirants should also read about current issues in the related field from newspapers.


1. Environment By Shankar (Shankar IAS Academy Publication): This book has been written in line with the syllabus set by UPSC and explains relevant topics on the environment–environmental ecology to climate change–in simple language.

2. Aspirants are also required to read the latest updates on environment-related issues from newspapers.

Science & Technology

Current affairs from newspapers and magazines are a good source of keeping yourself up-to-date.

Current Affairs

Current Affairs on Defence, Polity, Economy, Environment, Geography, Science as well as History can be covered from newspapers and magazines.

UPSC Mains

General Studies Paper 1- History, Geography and Social Issues


1. One can refer to the books suggested earlier for Prelims preparation. The focus, however, should be more on analysis than facts.

2. NCERT book titled Contemporary World History for Class 12

3. Selected chapters India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra (Penguin Random House Publication): This book gives you a detailed understanding of the forging of India after the struggle for Independence. The book also gives an objective assessment of the governments over time and their prime ministers, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh.

4. Political Science textbooks for Class 11 and 12


1. Geography And You: This is a bi-monthly magazine encompassing aspects of different genres of science, technology and sociology. G’nY Climate is another digital magazine covering climatic threats and concerns related to water and disasters.

2. Geography NCERT books (same as Prelims)

Social Issues

Aspirants need to be updated with current affairs on social conditions from newspapers.

General Studies 2: Polity & Governance and International Relations


1. Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth (as suggested for Prelims too)

2. Newspapers are a good source of learning about current affairs.


This is mostly based on current affairs so one needs to read the newspapers.

International Relations

International Relations (McGraw Hill Publication): This book is a must-read manual on world politics, foreign policy and international relations. It is designed to offer in-depth understanding of the global situation supported by case studies and diagrams.

General Studies 3: Economy, Environment, Disaster Management and Security Issues

Economy and Environment

1. One can refer to the same books as suggested for Prelims, except the approach to studying should be more detailed.

2. Read the newspaper thoroughly for information related to the subjects.

Disaster Management and Security Issues

Online sources like Institute for Defence and Security Analyses (IDSA) cover a lot of relevant issues and provide impartial analyses for the same.

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

1. There are several books on ethics available in the market like Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude by Chronicle Publication or Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude by G Subba Rao and P N Roy Chowdhury.

2. Report on Ethics in Public Administration published by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission.

— With inputs from Pulkit Sachdeva, Co-Founder, Sleepy Classes

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