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Top 20 Books to Help You Crack UPSC Civil Service Exam

Preparing for UPSC CSE? Recommended by IAS toppers, this checklist of 20 books (that you can buy on Amazon) will help you get a good hold on subject fundamentals for Prelims and Mains.

Top 20 Books to Help You Crack UPSC Civil Service Exam

Pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” This also holds in the case of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Service Exam (CSE). Hence – our suggestions for UPSC books!

Among the toughest exams in India, UPSC CSE requires more than just hard work. It requires proper planning and a strategy for study material that makes your preparation more productive with fewer inputs.

So to give you a head start, we have created this checklist of the best books for UPSC (IAS) Prelims and Mains preparation, along with links to where you can buy them on Amazon. Recommended by IAS toppers, these 20 books (apart from NCERTs) will help you get clarity and a good hold on subject fundamentals.

1. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M Laxmikanth (Polity)

Otherwise known as the ‘Bible of polity’, this UPSC book gives a comprehensive idea about the subject. Going through the book multiple times helps in attaining good marks for prelims as well as mains. It is one of the bestselling UPSC preparation guides. The author is a political science graduate with years of experience in training UPSC aspirants.

Buy the book here.

2. Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania (Culture)

It is an in-depth guide into the diverse culture and art of the country. It contains all information regarding knowledge on Indian art, paintings, music and architecture for both prelims and mains examinations. The author is a chartered accountant turned civil servant who guides aspirants in this subject.

Buy the book here.

3. International Relations: Pushpesh Pant (International Relations)

From the time of the emergence of sovereign states to the present global issues, this UPSC book covers all major events. It is best-loved by all students appearing for any competitive examinations. The Padma Shri-recipient author is an academician and historian who retired as a professor in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Buy the book here.

4. Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri (International Relations)

This book is compiled from a policy-oriented perspective covering all major challenges in the current foreign policy of the country. It also analyses the latest trends in foreign policy formulation. The author was an officer of the Indian Foreign Service and a career diplomat with 36 years of experience.

Buy the book here.

5. Indian Economy For Civil Services by Nitin Singhania (Economy)

The book contains a systematic arrangement of fluctuations in economic growth and development in the country. For a better and more comprehensive understanding various flowcharts, tables, graphs and examples are incorporated in it. Economic diplomacy, energy security, interactions between diplomacy, defence and foreign organisations are some of the many topics discussed. The civil servant author is also a post-graduate in economics.

Buy the book here.

6. Economic Development & Policy in India – Jain & Ohri (Economy)

This book is part of the syllabus of Bachelor of Arts/Commerce graduates. It gives a basic idea of the major economic policies formulated in the country post-independence. It is useful for all competitive examinations including UPSC. T R Jain and V K Ohri are both economists who have jointly authored multiple books which are part of CBSE and UGC syllabi.

Buy the book here.

7. Oxford School Atlas by Oxford Publishers (Geography)

An atlas is a must-have for a UPSC aspirant and the Oxford Atlas is one among the best available at present. It consists of a wide variety of comprehensive data with quality print. The accuracy and depth are perfect even for researchers. It is most useful for aspirants who choose geography as an optional subject.

Buy the book here.

8. Geography of India by Majid Husain (Geography)

This UPSC book is a reference for India’s geographical landscape and gives a well-detailed idea about the same. It includes maps, data and statistics of the country’s geographical position. The latest ninth edition is updated with the change in status of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Government schemes and initiatives are also incorporated in the book. The author is a well-known geographer and teacher.

Buy the book here.

9. Certificate of Physical & Human Geography by GC Leong (Geography)

The major elements of physical geography, world climatic and vegetational regions as well as their relationship with human geography is discussed in detail in this book. It contains many local examples which makes comprehension much easier and faster. The book comes with questions and exercises that prepare aspirants for their respective exams.

Buy the book here.

10. Environmental Ecology, Bio-Diversity, Climate Change & Disaster Management – Dr Ravi Agrahari (Environment)

Published by McGraw Hill, this book explains all major environmental issues and suggests workable solutions to those. It equips aspirants with answers to disaster management related questions which are significant in CSE. The otherwise complicated syllabus is easily covered by this single book.

Buy the book here.

11. Challenges to Internal Security of India – Ashok Kumar and Vipul Anekant (General Studies)

Challenges regarding the internal security of the country and other contemporary issues are discussed in this book published by McGraw Hill. The latest fourth edition contains the current status of Jammu & Kashmir, new social media code, internet restriction in India and effects of COVID-19. The book is co-authored by Ashok Kumar IPS and Vipul Anekant DANIPS.

Buy this book here.

12. Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude for Civil Services Main Examination by Subba Rao and P.N. Roy Chowdhury (Ethics)

This is one of the frequently updated and most comprehensive books available to cover these subjects. It comes with solved papers, writing techniques, confidence-boosting exercises. Co-authored by G Subba Rao and P N Roy Chowdhury, it is a best-seller for UPSC or any similar competitive exam preparation.

Buy the book here.

13. India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, K N Panikkar (History)

UPSC preparation is never complete without studying history and the independence struggle. This book is authored by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and K N Panikkar, all of them well-acclaimed historians. The text gives a detailed idea about the period between 1857-1947. It is compiled using primary sources and in-depth research.

Buy the book here.

14. India after Independence by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee (History)

Sequel of India’s Struggle for Independence, this book is authored by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee. It widely analyses the success and challenges the country came across after gaining independence from British rule. It explains the story of five decades which includes the political and economic agenda as well as the foreign policy during the Nehru government.

Buy the book here.

15. A History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra (History)

The in-depth history of the Indian subcontinent between the 8th and 18th centuries is reflected in this book. The series of invasions and the major social/economic changes that occurred pertaining to these invitations are explained well. The author is a popular historian and retired professor of JNU.

Buy the book here.

16. India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma (History)

It is an NCERT history textbook that was later published as a work called India’s Ancient Past. The text travels through neolithic and chalcolithic times to Harappan civilization, Vedic times, the rise of Mauryas and Guptas. The rise and fall of empires, the varna system, developments in science and technology, commerce and trade are some of the many areas covered. The author was a historian who specialised in the ancient era.

Buy the book here.

17. A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir (History)

Published by Rajiv Spectrum, the book dives into the advent of the Portuguese to the country and related events. It travels to the point where the Europeans establish complete power over the Indian subcontinent. The fall of powerful emperors and their well-built kingdoms also come as subjects.

Buy the book here.

18. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe (History)

The book examines major events that happened in the modern world and their end results. The language used makes for an easy read. Other than being a book referred by aspirants it is best-loved by history enthusiasts. The author is a historian and teacher with more than three decades of experience in the field.

Buy the book here.

19. Important Judgements that Transformed India by Alex Andrews George (Polity)

In this book, the most significant court cases which made an impact in the society, as well as the entire judiciary of the country, are mentioned in detail. These distinguished Supreme Court judgements paved the way for several changes in the constitution too. The author who compiled these judgements is a mentor and civil service exam trainer.

Buy the book here.

20. ‘Facets of Indian Culture’ by Spectrum (Culture)

Studying the diverse culture and traditions of India can become cumbersome. This UPSC book is a complete guide to the art forms, architecture, literary and intellectual traditions, beliefs and myths about the country. It also consists of various solved and unsolved question papers for practice. It is edited by experts in the field and published by Spectrum.

Buy the book here.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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