UPSC Books: Best Books for UPSC IAS Prelims & Mains 2022

By Arpit Kumar Jain|Updated : May 12th, 2022

UPSC Books are the most important part of Civil Services Exams preparation for both prelims and mains exam. While shortlisting the UPSC book list, you may find yourself confused, and feel like buying every book that is available in the book store. But you need to make the right call when it comes to choosing books for IAS. To help you out, we have compiled a complete list of UPSC Books that are recommended by the toppers and exam experts, and that will help you to fetch good marks in each stage of the UPSC exam. 

We have prepared a separate list of UPSC Books for Prelims and Mains because the Prelims round comprises only objective-type questions, and Mains deals with descriptive essay-type question papers. You can also check the complete UPSC Booklist for optional subjects. However, the Best Books for UPSC preparation can vary from candidate to candidate depending on their previous knowledge, and expertise in the subject matter.

Table of Content

Best Books for UPSC Prelims

UPSC Prelims exam is an objective exam and is a qualifying round. It is crucial to choose the best UPSC Prelims Books to ensure that you have covered the entire UPSC Prelims Syllabus in a comprehensive manner. The UPSC Books for Prelims include books for both Paper 1 and Paper 2 (CSAT). There are plenty of books to choose from for the prelims exam therefore the best way to begin your exam preparation is by completing the NCERT Books for UPSC for all the subjects.

UPSC Books for History [Prelims]

There are two levels of Books for UPSC Prelims for History. Beginners must go through the NCERT Books or NIOS books for Classes 11 and 12.

  • NCERT XI (Ancient & Medieval)
  • NCERT XII (Modern Indian History)

After completing the basic books, you can move on to the following History Books for IAS

  • India's Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra & Others
  • A Brief History of Modern India (2018‑2019) Book by Rajiv Ahir
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  • Ancient India by R.S Sharma

UPSC Prelims Books for Art & Culture

Studying the Indian culture and heritage for the Prelims exam would be a lot easier with the following Art & Culture Books for UPSC Prelims.

  • NCERT Class 11 – An Introduction to Indian Art Part-I
  • NCERT Class 11 – Living Crafts Traditions of India
  • NCERT Class 12 – Craft Traditions of India
  • Indian Art & Culture By Nitin Singhania

UPSC Books for Polity [Prelims]

UPSC Prelims Books for Polity cover the basic and in-depth understanding of Parliament, Union States, Local Administrations, Constitutions, etc. Following are some recommended books to cover these topics.

  • NCERT Class XI – Political Science: Indian Constitution at Work (New)
  • NCERT Class XII – Political Science I: Contemporary World Politics(New)
  • NCERT Class XII – Political Science II: Politics in India since Independence(New)

Above mentioned Polity Books for UPSC are for building the foundation. Below we have mentioned some standard books for covering Polity.

  • Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations – M. Laxmikanth
  • Important Acts that Transformed India – Alex Andrews George
  • Important Judgments that Transformed India – Alex Andrews George

UPSC Booklist for Geography [Prelims]

Geography Books for UPSC Prelims include both Indian geography and world geography, and following are some recommended books for this subject.

  • Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong
  • NCERT VI – X (Old)
  • NCERT XI, XII (New)
  • World Atlas (Orient Black Swan)

Economics Books for IAS Prelims

UPSC Prelims Books for Economics would give you an in-depth idea about the issues associated with society, economic growth, and development, demographics, poverty, etc. here are the best books you can refer to cover these topics.

  • Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania
  • Economic Development & Policies in India – Jain & Ohri
  • NCERT XI

UPSC Books for CSAT - (Important Books)

CSAT exam is designed to test the problem-solving, decision-making, and analytical ability skills of the candidates. Below we have mentioned some CSAT Books for UPSC that would help you to enhance these skillsets

  • Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual
  • Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning – R S Aggarwal

Other Important UPSC Books for Prelims

Apart from these above-mentioned UPSC Books for Prelims, candidates can also rely on the following resources to strengthen their preparation, and increase their chance of cracking the UPSC Prelims exam.

Important Books for UPSC Mains

Those candidates who crack the Prelims stage of the UPSC exam will have to appear Mains. Here choosing the right UPSC Books for Mains would give them a headstart with their preparation. Below we will be covering the best books for the Mains round subject-wise that would be helpful for the candidates.

Before choosing the right USPC Mains Books, it is important to understand the UPSC Exam Pattern for the Mains exam as it contains numerous papers.

UPSC Books for History [Mains GS Paper 1]

The history section of UPSC Mains Syllabus includes History and Indian Heritage & Culture. In the UPSC Mains exam, world history is also included. Check the selected UPSC Booklist to complete the history section

  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • India’s Ancient Past by R.S. Sharma published by Oxford University Press
  • A History of Ancient & Early Medieval India by Upinder Singh
  • History of Medieval India (800–1700 AD) by Satish Chandra published by Orient Longman
  • India After Independence (1947 - 2000) by Bipin Chandra & Others
  • From Plassey To Partition And After by Sekhar Bandopadhyaya

Geography Books for IAS Mains [GS Paper 1]

UPSC Books for Geography include all topics such as Indian Geography, Physical Geography, etc. The best way to cover Geography for the UPSC Mains GS Paper 1 is by covering the NCERTs first before moving on to advanced books. It is fair to assume that aspirants must have covered the basic NCERTs for the UPSC Prelims exam.

Check the best Geography Books for UPSC Mains below.

  • Geography of India by Majid Husain
  • World Geography by Majid Husain
  • World Atlas (Orient Black Swan)
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography – G C Leong
  • Fundamentals of Physical Geography NCERT Class 11 & 12
  • Indian Geography by D. R. Khullar

UPSC Books for GS Paper 2 [ Polity & IR]

Books for UPSC Mains GS paper 2 include sections that cover polity, governance, and IR. It is important to note that current affairs play a huge part in the GS Paper 2 section. The Best Books for IAS Polity are mentioned below.

  • Constitution of India at Work (Class XI) NCERT
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikant
  • The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper
  • Yojana Magazine
  • Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu
  • International Relations: Pushpesh Pant

UPSC Books for Economics [Mains GS Paper 3]

The Economics books for IAS Mains focus on conceptual clarity and understanding of everyday economics. Along with the UPSC Mains books for Economics, aspirants must supplement their preparation with the Annual Budget and Economic Survey.

  • Indian Economic Development NCERT Class 11
  • Indian Economy by Sanjiv Verma
  • Indian Economy – Nitin Singhania
  • Introductory Macro Economics NCERT Class 12
  • The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

UPSC Books for Environment [Mains GS Paper 3]

The environment has become important for the UPSC Exam in recent years. To ensure good marks in GS Paper 3, go through the following Environment books for IAS

  • Class 12 NCERT Book on Biology (Chapters pertaining to Ecology)
  • India Year Book (Chapters on Environment)
  • The chapter on Climate Change from Economic Survey
  • The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

You can also check Environment and Disaster Management – Tata McGraw Hill

UPSC Booklist for Internal Security [Mains GS Paper 3]

Check the best books for UPSC Preparation to cover the Internal Security section of UPSC GS Paper 3.

  • India’s Security in a Turbulent World by Jasjit Singh
  • Challenges to Internal Security of India – Ashok Kumar
  • The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

Best Ethics Books for UPSC

Check the complete UPSC Booklist for Ethics to complete the UPSC syllabus for ethics. The ethics paper consists of case studies therefore candidates must ensure that they are covering the books in the right manner.

  • Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
  • The Book on Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude by Lexicon by Chronicle Publications

NCERT Books for UPSC IAS Exam

The most important resource for your UPSC Exam preparation is NCERT Books for UPSC, not only these books would help strengthen your concepts, but the beginners would be highly benefitted from these books.

Subject

UPSC Book List

History

Ancient History - R. S. Sharma (Old NCERT)

Medieval History - Satish Chandra (Old NCERT)

Modern History - Bipin Chandra (Old NCERT) selective reading

World History - Arjun Dev

Note: Though Old NCERTs are mentioned, new ones can also be referred. What matters is conceptual clarity.

Indian Society

Class 11: Sociology: Understanding Society

Class 12: Indian society

Art & Culture

Class 11: An Introduction to Indian Art

Class 11: Living Craft Traditions of India (Chapters number 9 & 10)

Class 12: Craft Traditions of India

Geography

Class 6: The Earth: Our Habitat

Class 7: Our Environment

Class 8: Resources and Development

Class 9: Contemporary India - I

Class 10: Contemporary India - II

Class 11: Fundamentals of Physical Geography

Class 11: India - Physical Environment

Class 12: Fundamentals of Human Geography

Class 12: India - People and Economy

Economics

Class 10: Understanding Economic Development

Class 11: Indian Economic Development

Class 12: Introductory Microeconomics

Class 12: Introductory Macroeconomics

Polity

Class 11: Indian Constitution at work

Class 11: Political Theory

Class 12: Contemporary World Politics

Class 12: Politics in India since Independence

Sociology

Class 12: Social change and development in India

Environment and Ecology

Class 12: Biology: Last four chapters i.e chapters no.13 to 1

Chapters on Biotechnology

a. Class 12: Ecology (Unit 10)

b. Chapter 13: Organisms & Population

c. Chapter 14: Ecosystem

d. Chapter 15: Biodiversity & Conservation

a. Chapter 16: Environmental Issues·

Science and Technology

Class 6 - 10 (All the books)

Class 11 and 12 (Selective)

Class 11: Chemistry (Unit 14) Biology (Units 4 & 5)

Class 12: Chemistry (Unit 16) Biology (Units 8,9 and 10)

 

UPSC Book List for Optional Subjects

There are a total of 48 optional subjects in the UPSC mains exam, and candidates get the freedom to choose any one of them. Below we have provided the direct link to all the books for IAS optional subjects.

List of UPSC Optional and Literature Books

UPSC History Optional Books

Political Science Optional Books for UPSC Exam

UPSC Public Administration Optional Books

UPSC Geography Optional Books

Anthropology Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Sociology Optional Books

Hindi Literature Optional Books for UPSC IAS Exam

UPSC Economics Optional Books

Tamil Literature Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Mathematics Optional Books

Philosophy Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Botany Optional Books

Kannada Literature Optional Books for IAS

UPSC Gujarati Literature Optional Books

Chemistry Optional Books for UPSC Exam

UPSC Physics Optional Books

English Literature Optional Books for IAS

UPSC Telugu Literature Optional Books

Statistics Optional Books for IAS Exam

UPSC Geology Optional Books

Commerce Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Psychology Optional Books

Electrical Engineering Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Medical Science Optional Books

Agriculture Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Civil Engineering Optional Books

Mechanical Engineering Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences Optional Books

Law Optional Books for UPSC

UPSC Zoology Optional Books

Assamese Literature Optional Books for UPSC

Sindhi Literature Optional Books for UPSC Exam

Kashmiri Literature Optional Books for UPSC

IAS Malayalam Literature Optional Books

Nepali Literature Optional Books for UPSC

Bengali Literature Optional Books for UPSC Exam

UPSC Bodo Literature Optional Books for IAS Exam

UPSC Books for Management Optional

Konkani Literature Optional Books for UPSC Exam

Odia Literature Optional Books for UPSC IAS

UPSC Santhali Literature Optional Books

Urdu Literature Optional Books for UPSC

Maithili Literature Optional Books for UPSC

Marathi Literature Optional Books for IAS Exam

UPSC Punjabi Literature Optional Books

Sanskrit Literature Optional Books for UPSC IAS Exam

Best Polity Books for UPSC

Important Ethics Books for UPSC Exam

How to Read the UPSC Books?

Many aspirants often face problems because there is a huge amount of study materials to complete in a limited period of time. Reading too many books for IAS would confuse you. That’s why we have prepared this simple strategy that would help you to read the books efficiently.

  • Start picking up only a unit from the UPSC syllabus and choose a book as per the content of that unit. It would be a wise decision to pick one standard book for a particular subject and build a basic understanding.
  • If you are a beginner then you should start with NCERT books as the content is written in simple language, and explain the concept with ease.
  • After that start making notes from the book. Make sure you are covering all the topics of that subject while creating notes.
  • Highlight the important points so that you can glance through them in the revision period.
  • UPSC exam requires purposeful reading, so make sure you are reading the books for IAS dedicatedly.

UPSC Books Online

With the advancement of digitalization, candidates have the option to download e-books for IAS. these e-books are easily available online and they possess the same content as hardcopy books. Every subject requires several books, and it is not possible for the candidates to carry those books all the time. Thus online UPSC Books would a great alternative, and candidates can carry the PDF format anywhere they go.

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FAQ's on UPSC Books

  • UPSC Prelims is the screening test to find eligible candidates for UPSC Mains. The difficulty level of the questions will be moderate, so you need to start your preparation with all the NCERT UPSC Books. the NCERTs would help you to strengthen your basic understanding of the topics covered in the UPSC Prelims syllabus. Apart from NCERTs, some standards books that you can follow are Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth, Geography of India by Majid Husain, Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh, Introduction to the Constitution of India by D.D. Basu

  • CSAT paper is qualifying in nature, and that’s why candidates need to take this very seriously. No matter if they score big in the Paper-I Prelims exam, if they fail in the CSAT then they won’t qualify for the Mains. Here are some of the best books for UPSC preparation in CSAT paper.

    • Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual
    • Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning – R S Aggarwal
  • Reading from the UPSC Books is surely an essential part of the UPSC preparation. However, you need to be dependent on other sources as well such as newspapers, articles, magazines, and so on. Being a civil servant requires so much knowledge that can’t be achieved through books only.

  • Even though there are tons of choices when it comes to choosing the UPSC Books, candidates must have the following books while preparing for Civil Service Examinations.

    • India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
    • NCERT books: The Complete Package
    • Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
    • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
    • Introduction to the Constitution of India by D.D. Basu
    • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • It won’t be wise to read from the books from IAS during the revision period of time. That is why you must start making notes that can be handy during the revision time. To make notes you must finish the book, and then start covering topic-wise as per the UPSC syllabus. Make sure to add buttle points for important events, facts, or anything you like. Make notes in an organized manner so that you won’t have to spend time finding a particular thing whenever you want.

  • IAS is one of the toughest government exams in the country, and to crack it you will need access to the best IAS books. There are many books that will help you to prepare for IAS but here are some books that you can not miss. 

    • India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
    • NCERT books: The Complete Package
    • Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
    • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
    • Introduction to the Constitution of India by D.D. Basu
    • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • You may find many suggestions for UPSC Books for Prelims or Mains, but at the end of the day it is about how comfortable you are in reading that book. You must choose a book that you find easy to read, and easy to comprehend. You are a beginner then you can start with some basic books, and after some time you can switch to some advanced books.

  • We have provided a direct link to download the UPSC book list for the candidates above in this post. Candidates can download the PDF file and take a printout to keep for future reference. With this PDF file, you can keep the important books for UPSC in check.

  • History is a large part of the UPSC Mains syllabus, and it includes, ancient history, world history, Indian history, etc. to cover these sections you will need the following History books for UPSC Mains:

    • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania
    • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
    • India’s Ancient Past by R.S. Sharma published by Oxford University Press
    • A History of Ancient & Early Medieval India by Upinder Singh
    • History of Medieval India (800–1700 AD) by Satish Chandra published by Orient Longman
  • It is not the quantity of the UPSC Books but how well you are preparing from a certain book matters. It would be great if you cover most of the books we have mentioned above, but make sure you are not following multiple books for covering one topic. However, it is advised to read books to gather more knowledge on a particular subject.

  • Economics books are a must for the UPSC Preparations as it is included in all stages of the UPSC exam. Beginners can start with Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania, Economic Development & Policies in India – Jain & Ohri, NCERT XI to cover the economics section. These economics UPSC Books have covered the economics section in easy, and simple language.

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