IAS Gyan


List of books for UPSC recommended by Toppers'

14th May, 2023 Miscellaneous


Who doesn't want to clear the UPSC IAS examination on the first attempt?

But “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). In order to succeed in the prestigious UPSC Civil Services examination, it is important that the aspirant has access to the latest updated syllabus and uses the best study material to prepare for the examination. However, a common mistake carried forward by most IAS aspirants is that they believe that studying too many books will give them a better result. The truth is: Too many cooks spoil the broth!

UPSC demands that aspirants must have a general understanding of all the topics in the syllabus. It doesn’t require the aspirant to be an expert in any subject. For one topic, some students start collecting books, notes, and a plethora of study materials. Too many resources don’t help. Also, one shouldn’t do too much research on any topic to become an expert. You have to just clear the exam. So, stick to the basics.

Doubts about the usefulness of available resources may arise, leading to the search for alternative sources of assistance. However, it's essential to avoid this situation and maintain confidence in the resources already utilized.

One should religiously stick to the previously referred standard textbooks, self-made notes, current affairs resources, etc. This not only saves precious time but also results in easier recall and knowledge reinforcement.

Previous Year Questions and Mock tests are a great way to evaluate your preparation and verify the efficacy of your resources. They familiarize one with the language and the demand of the examination and lead the preparation in the right direction.

To give you a head start, we have created this checklist of the best books for UPSC (IAS) Prelims and Mains preparation. Recommended by IAS toppers, these books (apart from NCERTs) will help you get clarity and a good hold on subject fundamentals.

Indian Polity For Civil Service and Other State Examinations 6th Edition Mc  Graw Hill by: m laxmikanth – Babu Book Center

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.

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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.

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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.

Challenge and Strategy : Rajiv, Sikri: Amazon.in: Books

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Challenges to Internal Security of India ( English| 4th Edition) | UPSC | Civil Services Exam | State Administrative Exams

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.

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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.

India's Struggle for Independence & India Since Independence | Ishan Khosla  Design

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.


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.

A History of Medieval India : Chandra Satish: Amazon.in: Books

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.

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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.

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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.

Mastering Modern World History (Palgrave Master Series): 22 : Lowe, Norman:  Amazon.in: Books

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.

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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.

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 ‘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.


Current affairs

  • The Hindu
  • PIB
  • Other important websites/applications


Science & Tech

  • Notes by Shankar IAS
  • Daily Newspapers
  • ISRO website


Environment & Ecology

Recent events on Climate change through newspapers.


India Year Book

This reference book is an authoritative compilation of the complete information about the current affairs of the country, which includes important dignitaries, state policy, public schemes and important data related to demographics, trade, economy and others.

Topper recommended books for Mains (Paperwise)

GS Paper 1

Indian Heritage and Culture

  • The Wonder That Was India A.L. Bhasham
  • Indian Art and Culture Nitin Singhania

India and World History

  • India's Ancient Past R.S. Sharma
  • History Of Modern India Bipan Chandra
  • India's Struggle For Independence Bipan Chandra

Geography of the World and Society

  • Geography of India Majid Husain (Geography)
  • Oxford School Atlas Oxford (Geography)
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography Goh Cheng Leong (Geography)


GS Paper 2

  • Indian Constitution at Work (NCERT)
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikanth
  • Introduction to the Constitution of India by D.D. Basu
  • Governance in India by Laxmikanth
  • India Year Book
  • Contemporary World Politics (NCERT)


GS Paper 3

  • Economic Survey
  • Science and Technology in India TMH
  • The Environment for Civil Services prelims and Mains Khuller
  • India Year Book
  • ARC Report on Disaster Management
  • Indian Economy by Uma Kapila


GS Paper 4

  • Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude ( Ethics GS4)
  • IAS Mains General Studies Ethics ( Arihant Manual GS4)



Srushti Deshmukh Gowda

IAS 2019


  1. ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL HISTORY : Tamil Nadu Text books are detailed accounts of History.

  2. Ancient History : Tamil Nadu Text Book 11th Standard
  3. Medieval History : Tamil Nadu Text Book 11th Standard

Reference: Ancient and Medieval India by Poonam Dalal Dahiya


Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania


A brief History of Modern India By Rajiv Ahir Spectrum Publication

Reference: India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra



Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GC Leong

Reference Websites :
a. PMF IAS : https://www.pmfias.com/geography/
The Geography and Environment part notes available on this website are well explained.
b. Rajtanil Mam’s Lectures : On Mrunal Channel on Youtube
c. Amit SenGupta’s Lectures : On youtube Channel of same name in which NCERT Chapters are explained well in simplified manner.



NCERT - CLass XI and XII

a. Economic and Political Weekly Magazine - selective reading of few articles based on Caste, Reservation, Women’s issues etc can enhance your understanding.



Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth

a. Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu
b. Landmark Judgments (covering More Than 50 Leading Cases Of India Book by Universal's
c. Vikaspedia : https://vikaspedia.in/
Government owned website which has an official brief of policies and schemes. Comes handy for Polity reference.
d. PRS Legislative Research : https://prsindia.org/
Good quality Material like Summary of Bills, Policies, Acts, Parliamentary Committee Reports are really helpful in writing Answers.



Reference Website :
a. The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) - https://www.idsa.in/
The articles on International Relations are good quality, non- partisan and provide a balanced perspective on any issue.


Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh

Reference Website :
a. ARTHAPEDIA : http://arthapedia.in/

The website is maintained by Indian Economic Service Officers and is a ready reference for terminologies in Economics. Any new concepts are also covered here in brief which will help you understand concepts.
b. LIVEMINT : https://www.livemint.com/
News Website covering articles specially related to Economics. One can subscribe or visit the website now and then to refer articles.
c. WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM : https://www.weforum.org/
Certain Issues of Global Importance are covered well in this website. For eg issues related to Unemployment,Energy Usage, Climate Change, Impact of technology etc.



Challenges to Internal Security of India by Ashok Kumar Vipul Anekant


  1. The LEXICON for Ethics Integrity and Aptitude by The Chronicle
    b. Case Studies in Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by R Rajagopalan

Reference Website :
a. SKILL YOU NEED : https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ Many topics like Honesty, Emotional Intelligence, Personal and Professional work are explained in a very simplified manner b. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) : https://www.oecd.org The official publications and reports on Corruption, Public Integrity on this website have explained concepts in a concise manner with a global perspective.



  1. Selective Readings from Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe
    b. Vision IAS notes


2nd ARC - 3rd Report Crisis Management



  1. PIB Websitehttps://www.pib.gov.in/indexd.aspx
    You can subscribe to the feed and read selectively. A brief account of any topic is given in which the version of the government can be understood from here.

  2. NEWS ON AIRhttps://newsonair.gov.in/
    This Radio channel can be listened to through an app or website. The Spotlight News Analysis programme is a good conversational program that highlights the various aspects of any issue.

  3. RSTV https://rajyasabha.nic.in/

    Can be viewed on Youtube or otherwise. Programmes like Big Picture and India’s World are good forums for effective discussion.

  4. NITI AYOGhttps://www.niti.gov.in/
    Initiatives, Publications and Rankings from Niti Ayog are very crucial in having data points for the answers. Reports provide deeper knowledge about subjects of economy, development and others.

  5. OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATIONhttps://www.orfonline.org/
    This website provides detailed articles on multiple subjects. Their analysis is good and points can be used in the answer directly.


The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith, managing our time and resources in the best way possible." said Franklin D. Roosevelt.