These are the books I read for the Civil Services Prelims exam. I’ve written this post keeping in mind an absolute beginner aspirant who is starting from level zero.
As you start your Prelims preparation and read these books, please keep the following points in mind:
- Along with these books, get a printout of the syllabus and read it carefully.
- And when you start, I recommend that you begin with NCERT books. Read and revise them methodically to gain absolute conceptual clarity. They form the foundation of your knowledge which will help you immensely through all stages of the exam.
- Do not be scared at the long list of books. For a beginner, one year is more than enough to cover the complete syllabus of GS (prelims and mains) and optional.
- In the book list, wherever I had mentioned selective reading, it means there’s no need to read the book cover to cover. Go through the past five years’ question papers to understand the kind of questions UPSC usually asks. It’ll give you a good perspective of what’s important and what’s not.
- For the same topic, do not refer to more than one material. For example, take India’s freedom struggle (1857-1947). If you read that portion from the Spectrum publications, there’s no need to do the same again from Bipan Chandra’s book. Read the latter to cover those parts not covered in the former.
- Use internet extensively. Let me give a few examples. Youtube’s PMFIAS channel is an excellent resource for understanding complex Geography topics. Similarly, for Art & Culture, I used to watch videos of classical dances, folk dances, puppetry shows on Youtube so that I could memorise their features better. In Science & Tech, if you come across a term, say, Blockchain Technology, go to Youtube and see explainer videos. Even for Environment, suppose you read about endangered species such as the Red Panda and Malabar Hornbill, Google them and see how they look. Visuals stick in your mind far longer. Your target must be to gain knowledge, be it through books or through internet.
- If you are taking coaching, by all means read their notes. But please keep in mind that you cannot just read those coaching notes and neglect these standard books. For example, take Polity topic. A coaching institute’s notes will never cover the complete subject, only Laxmikanth does. So even if you refer to your coaching notes, you still have to read Laxmikanth and know it like the back of your hand. This principle applies for all subjects.
- For all subjects, you have to superimpose current affairs over it. To illustrate, in Polity topic, apart from reading the static theory portion, you need to keep an eye on current happenings. For example, if the Govt brings in Constitutional amendment for GST, you must read both about the major provisions of the amendment and the Constitutional amendment procedure itself. Do this for all subjects.
- To perform well in Prelims, revision is crucial. Without it, you will not be able to recollect whatever you may have read. So please dedicate adequate time for revision before the actual exam.
- Just because I am AIR-1, it does not mean that this book list is the last word. If you have been studying some other material, that’s fine, too. To succeed in this exam, the source of material is not important. What’s important is you to understand the concepts, memorise the facts well and have a firm grip over the entire syllabus.
The list of books:
- Indian Polity by Laxmikanth
- Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
- Mrunal.org articles
- Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XII
- Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI
- Economic Survey (Selective reading from Prelims perspective)
- The Hindu
- Internet for understanding concepts (Arthapedia, Google, Youtube)
Ancient History of India
- Old NCERT by RS Sharma
Medieval History of India
- Old NCERT by Satish Chandra (Selective Reading)
- A Brief history of Modern India- Spectrum Publications
- India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)
- NCERT by Bipan Chandra (For the period 1700s to 1857)
Indian Art and Culture
- An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT
- Chapters related to culture in Ancient and Medieval India NCERTs
- Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (CCRT) material
- Heritage Crafts: Living Craft Traditions of India -NCERT
Environment and Biodiversity
- Shankar IAS book
- General Science books – IX and X standard
- The Hindu (Note down and read about the latest scientific terms, discoveries and inventions frequently mentioned in news)
- Google and YouTube
- Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT
- India: Physical Environment XI NCERT
- Fundamentals of Human Geography XII NCERT
- India: People and Economy XII NCERT
- Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong
- PMFIAS (Excellent resource for understanding complex topics)
- Google and YouTube
- Govt schemes compilation by the website Civils Daily
General Trivia (Eg: Global groupings, Reports, Institutions, Rankings etc)
- Any coaching material