How to Ace Anthropology Optional: Book list and Basic Plan

By | June 17, 2018

Note: There a total of 3 blog posts on Anthropology. This first article primarily talks about my book list and the basic approach I followed. The second and third articles deal with topic wise detailed plan for Paper I and II respectively.

Marksheet

Book List

These are the sources I referred to for my Anthropology optional. There is no need to read these books from end to end. You must go topic wise as per the syllabus and read these books to get a good grip over the subject. Apart from these, use online sources and newspapers to enrich your knowledge and answer content.


Paper I

  1. Braintree material
  2. Physical Anthropology – P Nath
  3. Anthropology Simplified – Vivek Bhasme (very good source for diagrams and answer structuring)
  4. Anthropology – Ember and Ember

Paper II

  1. Indian Anthropology -Nadeem Hasnain
  2. Tribal India – Nadeem Hasnain
  3. Anthropology Simplified- Vivek Bhasme
  4. The Tribal Culture of India – LP Vidyarthi
  5. Xaxa Report
  6. January 2014 edition of Yojana- Tribal and Marginalized Communities

 

Note on diagrams and answer writing

While preparing for CSE 2017, because of my hectic work schedule I was hard pressed to just finish the syllabus in the limited time I had. Because of this time crunch, I could neither make any topic-wise notes nor opt for any test series. I learnt how to write good answers from the book Anthropology Simplified by Vivek Bhasme. Most of the diagrams I practised too were from this book.

 

Online Resources for Paper I and II

  1. Khan Academy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gUY5NoX1Lk
  2. Anthropological Theories: http://anthropology.ua.edu/cultures/cultures.php
  3. Genetics: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/
  4. Anthropological Survey of India: https://ansi.gov.in/
  5. Ministry of Tribal Affairs: https://tribal.nic.in/
  6. Tribal faces of India- https://tribal.nic.in/DivisionsFiles/tribalFaces.pdf
  7. Govt. schemes and tribal related news reported in newspapers
  8. Diagrams related to anthropology: I practised many diagrams from the notes of Kirthi Chekuri (AIR 14, CSE 2015) published in this Insights article
  9. Physical Anthropology slides

 

Books for general reading

The following books have absolutely no bearing on Anthropology optional preparation. But for a curious student of this subject, these books are incredibly fascinating to read. Much ahead of me choosing Anthropology as my optional, it’s these books that got me deeply interested in the fields of evolutionary biology and genetics. Pick them up in your leisure time and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

  1. Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari
  2. The Selfish Gene- Richard Dawkins
  3. The Blind Watchmaker- Richard Dawkins
  4. The Gene- Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

Anthropologist Jane Goodall with our Chimp cousin. This NatGeo film on her life is fantastic.   Image credit: www.neverapart.com

 

Basic Plan

While you refer to the aforementioned booklist, these are some of the tips you should keep in mind.

  1. If you are a complete beginner in Anthropology, your focus must be on gaining conceptual clarity and not on quickly completing the syllabus. Always remember that on the final day, it’s your clear understanding of the subject that lets you write good answers.
  2. In the booklist I mentioned, there’s no need to read every book from cover to cover. When you are reading from a book, always have the relevant syllabus chapter/ topic and previous years’ questions in mind. They will help you to stay focussed and will give you an idea of how much to study from each book.
  3. For absolute beginners, Ember and Ember is a great book to start with. When I began preparing for Anthro in Jan 2017, I started with this book. I loved it so much that I read it cover to cover, even though such detailed reading is not at all needed from the exam point of view.
  4. If you are making notes, they must be rich and comprehensive in content. For this, start with one standard core book, make notes from it and then add relevant content from other books. I’ve dealt with this in detail in my subsequent posts to this article.
  5. For both the papers, wherever relevant, quoting examples and illustrating with diagrams is absolutely pivotal. Paper I must have tribes names from the rest of the world. Ember and Ember is rich resource for many such examples but the pity is that there’s no way to memorise them except by rote. Collect such examples in an A4 sheet and revise over and over.
  6. Attempt as many Physical Anthropology questions as possible. They are largely static with immense scope for diagrams. You shouldn’t go wrong on those.
  7. Use internet and YouTube extensively for understanding Physical Anthropology concepts (especially Genetics). You can find very good explainer videos and documentaries. In your answers, wherever relevant, you can also write about the latest findings in the field. For example, in a topic like genetic inheritance, briefly mention about current research in epigenome, DNA methylation and how it affects gene expression.
  8. Answer like a specialist. Definitions, introductions, criticisms must be scholarly. That is, you must mention Anthropologists’ name, their work (year of publication too, if you can), its criticism by other thinkers. Examples: a. Bronislaw Malinowski in his work “Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922)” describes the importance of Kula Ring in the economic systems of Trobriand Islanders  b. Franz Boas in his article “The Limitation of the Comparative Method of Anthropology (1896)” criticized the evolutionary approach and laid the foundations of Historical Particularism.
  9. For a particular concept, apart from the main thinker, try and quote works of other Anthropologists as well. For example: In Tribe-Caste Continuum of Paper II, everyone writes about Bailey, but if you can also substantiate your answer with works of Surajit Sinha on Maria Gonds, this will give your answer an edge.
  10. Use internet and newspapers to collect good case studies to illustrate Tribal problems. Cram latest statistics pertaining to them. A thorough reading of Xaxa report is an absolute must for Tribal related portions of the syllabus.
  11. Keep tabs on the latest news pertaining to Anthropology. It can be a new fossil discovery, launch of a new govt scheme for PVTGs, or a new finding in genetic research etc. When you read papers, have an eye out for such news and collect them in a separate notebook so that you can revise them before the exam.
  12. Apart from reading books, dedicate adequate time to practise diagrams and label them correctly. Consistent practice helps you draw fast and draw neat.

Anthropology is a terrific subject to learn. If you put your heart into it, you can easily ace this optional. My best wishes. 🙂

Until next time,
Anudeep.

 

97 thoughts on “How to Ace Anthropology Optional: Book list and Basic Plan

  1. Tejaswini

    Thank you so much sir, literally I was confused since couple of days about how and what to prepare, this relived my confusion

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty

      I’m glad you found this post useful. Good luck!

      Reply
      1. Anu

        hello sir can you please tell us about your mains strategy.. books, websites, note making and answer practice

        Reply
      2. Anu

        Hi i would like to know Did you join any coaching for Anthropology

        Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Sir, I’m doing Bsc.Hon. Chemistry from DU. Sir, I want to know that should I choose chemistry as my optional. I am interseted in geography too.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Which edition of Ember and Ember has to be referred sir ??

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Thank you annaya plz continue your guides to prepare youngster’s like u waiting for ur next guidance tweet annaya

    Reply
  5. Gousiya Sultana

    Thank you so much Anudeep sir,this information helps me a lot for my preparation….so nice of you sir

    Reply
  6. Santhanam

    Sir what’s the difference between socialogy and anthropology,does anthropology deals with only tribes or does it include study of scheduled castes.

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty

      Anthropology studies how we evolved from being insignificant apes to a primitive tribes. Sociology takes on from here and studies how we evolved from primitive tribes to establish complex societies.

      Reply
  7. Pooja.K.R.

    Tqsm anudeep sir for sharing dis information with us, keep guiding us .

    Reply
  8. Saumya M

    Thank you Anudeep Sir for your brilliant article in a lucid manner.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: ANTHROPOLOGY STRATEGY: By Anudeep Durishetty, RANK-1 UPSC CSE-2017 - How to Ace Anthropology Optional: Topic Wise Plan for Paper I - INSIGHTS

  10. Tejas

    I really appreciate your efforts of guiding fellow aspirants. Wish you All the Best for your future endeavours. A humble request, please keep guiding us and do not let this beautiful blog of yours gather dust with time.
    Thanks again..

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      You can be assured that this blog will be alive for a long time, though the articles will cease to be about UPSC exam after a point.

      Reply
  11. sumit

    Hello sir…many many congratulations…
    Sir…I’m a student of science background but want to go with anthropology optional…..How should I start…. kindly mention from which book should I start???
    Thank you sir….

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      Bro, the whole point of the article was just that.

      Reply
  12. sumit

    Sir how long it will take me to complete the syllabus….I’m a beginner now…I’m preparing for 2019…….and from which month should I start for my optional..
    Thank you sir

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    Hi sir just wanted to know where to get Braintree material. Did you buy online or studied through pfds?

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I am srinath studying graduation 3rd year and I am from vemulawada karimnagar . And aspiring to become an ias Sir .I have question ” There are a lot of aspirants preparing for ias some are cracking in 1st attempt without coaching and some are taking a lot of attempts what is the key aspects and difference between the people who are made it and rest who don’t ?” Please answer me for the my query Sir .Hoping a sooner response.
      Thank you Sir

      Reply
  14. Anonymous

    Hi sir, how did you revise and make notes out of ember and ember ? CAn you elaborate regarding use of this book ?

    From where we will get case studies for anthropology ?

    Reply
  15. DAYA

    Hello Anudeep Sir,
    Ist of all heartiest Congratulations on your great Success…&
    Thank u so much for such informatic blog,
    One of my humble request to u sir
    plz if you have collection/notes
    in soft copies PDF/DOC format related to – Anthropology/GS/ESSAY Etc… whatever,
    Sir could u plz email me or share it if it is on google drive at
    my email id-

    daya.panwar.cbi@gmail.com

    Sir i wud be tthankful to u.
    I know you might be having tIGHT schedule and may not have time to share it but yours 5 minutes will save my 5 months & will help me a lot sir plzzzzz

    Thanks & regards.
    DAYA

    Reply
  16. Kavya

    Dhurishettygaru,
    a lot of candidates clearing this time had Anthropology as their optional so my coaching suggested I change mine because this one might not perform so well next year. Is there any truth to this? Are optionals really subject to such trends? I would gladly switch to another ( I’m considering psychology but I’m worried I’d have to compete with graduates and post graduates in the subject) since I haven’t really started on Anthropology and the only reason I chose it was because my graduation subject (dentistry) is not amongst the optionals and I liked “The Selfish Gene”.

    And if you suggest I stick with Anthropology then how many months should I give to it? Do I have enough time to complete it properly to attempt in 2019?

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      Whether an optional would do well or not, no one can tell. If you like the subject and can write better answers compared to others within your optional, then you need not fear. You’ll get good marks.

      So stop wasting time on unnecessary speculation.

      Reply
  17. Anonymous

    Where can I get P nath- Physical anthropology.?
    Or someone have pdf plz send link.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Buy it from a shop, bro. You don’t have to be stingy when you want to become an IAS officer

      Reply
  18. Amit

    Sir,my situation is quite similar to yours.I had given 4 attempts already with Pub Ad optional,in which i got 230 in 2016 and 261 in 2017.I failed to clear 2018 pre.2019 will be my 5th attempt.I can’t take the risk of keeping pub ad since you know the unpredictability of Pub Ad.I am ready to put in my effort,can Anthro be covered in 4 months?
    Please advice me,should i go with the change

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      Let’s say in Quantum Physics if I get consistently poor marks, I’d be fine with it because I know that I suck at that subject. But the the problem I had with Pub Ad was that to see a subject with such sterile, deceased content was delivering such poor marks even after preparing so thoroughly. As I mentioned in my ForumIAS video (available on YouTube) even after 4 years of preparing for Pub Ad, when I saw a question, I had no idea where to start or what to write.

      Tackling each Pub Ad question became a perverse exercise in decoding the examiner’s mindset rather than answering each question clearly and directly. That uncertainty and obscurity was just killing me. And not to mention the fact that since day one, I found theories of “thinkers” like McGregor, Argyris, Likert, Mary Follet to be lifeless, pretentious and total garbage.

      Add to it the fact that, “questions” in Pub Ad are random quotes taken from some godforsaken research paper that NO ONE ever cared about except the paper setter. How do I write about a quote without its context? When you are asked such question, you are inevitably sucked into that deathly vortex of double-guessing examiners’ intention in asking the question, instead of answering the question itself.

      So all of it pushed me to change my optional. And when I wanted to take a new optional, of course I was very reluctant to write off that massive four year sunk cost in Pub Ad. But I always told myself: “If I fail with Anthro, that’s okay. I would be failing on my own terms and not because of an awful subject like Pub Ad”

      Sorry if it felt like a rant, but since you asked, I wanted tell you my reasoning clearly and honestly. If you could relate to the difficulties I faced with Pub Ad, then probably it’s time to dump it.

      Regarding Anthro, I prepared for it along with a job, so I took around 6 months to finish it. If you aren’t working, then 4 months is good enough time to do it.

      Reply
      1. Amit

        Sir, thanks a lot for giving such a detailed reply.You have cleared my doubts,i will take a call based on your inputs.Country needs more officers like you who are so humble,accessible and helping.

        Reply
  19. Anonymous

    hello anudeep ,can u please tell about how to start mains preparation for beginner

    Reply
  20. Krena Jain

    Hello Sir,
    Congratulations on your achievement.
    I would like to know, can a non science student opt for anthropology as an optional?
    Considering, I do have some interest in this subject.

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      Yes, anyone with an interest in the subject can take it up.

      Reply
  21. Ron

    Thank you!so much our excellency ANUDEEP sir for sharing this information with us ,hopefully we wish your guidence will stay everlasting..

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    which edition of Physical anthropology P Nath you followed?

    Reply
  23. Dharahas

    Thank you so much Anudeep anna for sharing the valuable information.
    Can you please tell me where did u find the braintree material. i tried searching in net but couldn’t find any.

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      I bought it at Vikas book store in Ashok Nagar, Hyderabad

      Reply
  24. Parag

    Thank you so much sir!!…. I have anthropology as optional….. I’ve completed coaching 5 months ago …. now I’m confused about should I join test series and prepare or should I first study and then join test series…… thank you in advance for your input!!

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      If you had read the entire syllabus at least once, you can join a test series.

      Reply
  25. Xperiac

    Sir I did coaching for paper 2 anrhro last year should take coaching this year or after prelims plss help me out am really confused.

    Reply
  26. Prasad

    Sir, I am going to choose Botany as optional but I am not getting right guidance like this one. I have googled about toppers but not getting it. Please suggest another blog like this for Botany.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      I’m really sorry, I have no one in my close circle who cleared CSE with Botany.

      Reply
  27. naina tara

    Congratulations Anudeep 🙂

    your article was quite interesting and covered a lot of my doubts \ questions, esp where should i start reading from.

    This will be my first attempt. I just started preparation without coaching. so, i don’t really know about how good are coaching materials. I am assuming they would cover everything in the syllabus as they are specifically designed for UPSC. A lot of toppers refer to various institutes coaching material

    Why would one need different coaching materials [Various Books are fine but materials!!]
    So, can you please let me know if its just to clear concepts or for case studies or is there any other reason? i want to buy Brain tree material

    i am a science student fascinated by Anthropology. Still thought Pub ad will help me [without really looking at anthro.. Was only driven by which optional will help me cover considerable mains syllabus]
    i even bought all the pub ad books :-D. could not figure out what was bothering me after reading
    a little.
    Your blog answered what was putting me off about pub ad

    Reply
    1. Naina Tara

      Hi Anudeep,

      I read your other articles on Anthropology. Your articles are amazing. Simple and detailed coverage. I wonder how long you took 🙂 thank you very much.

      I have a few more questions today.
      1. Did you buy the brain tree material from Amazon? They don’t have it on their website [which is unlikely though]
      2. Brain tree is a coaching material – Anthropology simplified is a “For UPSC in Q & A format”. From you articles what i understood is Brain tree is for concepts in paper II. Anthropology Simplified is for diagrams in Paper I and a few concepts in paper II. please correct me if there is more to it.

      3. i was always a text book reader, no question banks – that’s the reason behind these similar kind of questions. – Do you suggest reading relevant topics from a book and building on it from other books during second revision\ answer writing Or Read each topic from all the books – make your own notes and revise!!

      Reply
  28. Abhi

    Sir I have given some anthropology tests but not able to decipher issues in my answer writing though the content is fine… How did you improve upon it by yourself ?

    Reply
  29. Rohit

    Congratulations sir, as a graduate in medical science but no idea of anthropology at all… Do I hav the time to manage it if I take it as an optional for the 2019 exams?

    Reply
  30. Vasanthalakshmi

    Sir, may I know why did you want to become an IAS officer? Which inspired you to work as so..?

    Reply
  31. Anonymous

    Hi sir,,,
    What should be the order ( section-wise) for traversing through the whole syllabus ?
    Especially for Paper-1 where UPSC mandated syllabus has Physical anthropology split in silos sec.1.4-1.7 & 9.1-12….is it ok to read similar sections at one go ?

    Reply
  32. bhumishrivastava17

    Hello Sir.
    I am doing my Master;s in Zoology but still find it enormous to complete. I am thinking of switching to Anthropology for my maiden attempt in 2020, because of slight overlap with Zoology (evolution, genetics, etc.) and also because of my genuine interest in the subject.. Can you please tell me if it is able to completely and conceptually understand this subject with only self study? I can manage 4 hours per day for optional, how much time will it take to complete the syllabus?
    Thanks. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      Yes, you can manage the entire subject on your own.

      Reply
  33. januarylexa

    Thanks Anudeep. Do you think it is feasible for a law grad (with humanities in 10+2) to take up anthropology as an optional? I want to know the extent of “sciencey” i.e. biology knowledge required, and can keeping an open mind and regular effort make up for the (thus far) lack of it? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Anudeep Durishetty Post author

      Pick up Ember and Ember and read it for a week. You will be able to tell if you like the subject and whether you can take it up as optional.

      Anthropology need only absolute basics in biology. You need not fear it. In fact vast portion of the subject has little to do with biology. So do the exercise I suggested for a week. If your gut feeling says you can do it, then go ahead.

      Reply
  34. sonali brahme

    sir any coaching classes for anthropology you please suggest me sir..
    i am confused which one to join..
    some is saying vijetha others saying sapiens.. some saying vaid sir..???

    Reply
  35. Abhi Narayanaswamya

    TQ bro I have texted u abt this so many time but I didn’t get replay from so I quit texting u but thanks for all information abt ALLL abt exam TQ TQ

    Reply
  36. Anonymous

    Sir, don’t think me as wrong. If u can do, please give the syllabus micro topics. Thank you Sir

    Reply
  37. Anonymous

    sir,u mentioned about standard core book for note making… kindly mention which book did u have as the core one ??

    Reply
  38. christy george

    Sir ,
    As someone who cannot afford coaching and preparing on own in this subject,how should one approach the answer writing part …. When and how?
    Thanks.

    Reply
  39. Anonymous

    Sir I heard during UPSC preparation guidance play major role. What type of guidance an aspirant should have?Guide the fellow aspirants..HAPPY TEACHER’S DAY SIR. .

    Reply
  40. Anonymous

    Thank you soooooooooo much Sir .
    We are really grateful to find such an Industrious and guiding IAS like you….
    …. Keep guiding your Juniors sir …..
    You are an inspiration and an idol for us

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      12e is available in India. 14e hasn’t yet been published for the Indian subcontinent, if you can get it from amazon.com with the expensive shipping then do that. But it’s not necessary, e&e 12e is good enough as a primer and explainer. A few new discoveries or theories are lacking which you will anyway study from other books on this booklist.

      Reply
  41. Anonymous

    Sir can you please upload your anthropology notes too for both paper 1 and paper 2. So that i can get idea how to prepare notes for anthro just like you polity notes.

    Reply
  42. Pavani

    Hi Sir,

    Im taking coaching for anthropology, im pretty clear about subject and attending classes regularly, after class can i directly study from Anthropology Simplified through question and answers or do i need to study first P Nath and brain tree material then Simplified Anthropology ? Im confused …can you please clarify me on this …thank you

    Reply
  43. artimarkad2016

    Sir have you vivek bhasme’s anthropology simplified pdf if you have please upload

    Reply
  44. Bhargav Bonagiri

    sir firstly congrats
    And I am from Telugu mediam background. Sir can I prepare without coaching.

    Reply
  45. Anonymous

    My doubt is it possible to crack upsc CSE without taking any couching

    Reply
  46. Bhargav Bonagiri

    Is it possible to clear UPSC CSE without taking any couching.and sir could you share your preparation planning.

    Reply
  47. asmita

    Sir,
    Could you please tell us what all mistakes (beside choosing Pub Ad as optional) you made in your earlier attempts that we could avoid?

    Reply
  48. Anusha

    Iwant to choose Telugu literature as optional is it score subject or not sir you have any idea regarding Telugu as optional can you please tell me sir .

    Reply
  49. Himadri

    Hi,

    Really appreciate your guidance… its really helping me and many others too… From all this blogs we are getting a clear idea what we have to study and how we should go for it….

    I was looking for the Anthropology by ember n ember… but got confused a little after searching on amazon, as there are lot of books…. Can u pls share the link from amazon/flipkart… it will be really helpful…

    Looking forward to your help.

    Thanks,
    Hema

    Reply

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