Recommended Books for UPSC Exam (prelims & mains)

Compiling suggestions from most of the toppers, here is our list of recommended books. Follow them thoroughly and you will be in the safe zone.


Subject Basic source (for understanding/ not required to be revised as rigorously as the primary source) Primary source (needs to be understood and revised very rigorously)
Polity NCERTs up to XII standard M. Laxmikanth

CD Module –

Modern History NCERTs for XI, XII (new/old, anything can do) OR Tamil Nadu Board books for XI, XII A Brief History of Modern India by Spectrum (exam oriented book) OR India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra (novel/story format)
Geography New NCERTs VI-X + Old NCERTs VI-VIII (for old NCERTs, only second part of each book related to world geography should be seen) New NCERTs for XI, XII + G. C. Leong + Supplement with Civilsdaily’s coverage on Geography (
Economy NCERTs XI, XII (focus more on macro-economy part) Eco by Dr. V –

Current Affairs Daily reading of news and editorials from Civilsdaily or newspaper Monthly or Weekly Compilation like Civilsdaily’s monthly magazine or Samachar Manthan Program
Art and Culture + Ancient + Medieval History   Old NCERTs XI, XII + Fine Arts NCERT XI std + Selective reading of CCRT website + supplement with Civilsdaily’s coverage on art and culture
Environment  XII Biology new NCERT (last 4 chapters relevant to ecology) + XI Chemistry new NCERT (only one chapter related to environmental chemistry) Shankar IAS’s notes can be used selectively (not more than 100 pages are relevant).

Read other important topics asked in tests and previous years from the internet.

#1. Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

NCERTs (11th & 12th)
The Hindu

This is one area where, luckily, the questions have been straightforward and simple. Laxmikanth takes care of all our needs especially for Prelims. But when you read Polity be very careful about what you are reading because here the examiners are experimenting with words and phrases only. For example, Head of State vs. Head of Government. Can these phrases be substituted for each other?

#2. Modern History

Brief History of Indian Freedom Struggle – Bipin Chandra

The questions from Modern History have largely been easy in Prelims and can be easily answered with the above references.

#3.Indian and World Geography-Physical Social, Economic Geography of India and the World

NCERTs (11th & 12th)
Goh Cheng Leong
An Atlas( Oxford/Orient)

This is one section where many of the questions are derived from current affairs. For example, When a place or a river or a hill range et al make headline locate it on the map. For example, if there is talk of tribal agitation in Niyamgiri Hills then you should locate it on the map. Similarly, if a river makes headline due to an inter-state dispute, trace its path in the map, locate its point of origin, identify its tributaries, identify the states it traverses. If a tribe has been in news, find out the state it belongs to. If these have been articles on industries or minerals, identify their distribution, any change in their distribution. Right?

Even otherwise, several questions in this section are pooled from map reading. For example, rivers flowing through Arunachal Pradesh, or the islands separated by Ten Degree Channel. Such questions can be answered only if you have your map pointing in place.

#4.Ancient and Medieval History Indian and World Geography-Physical Social, Economic Geography of India and the World

Old NCERTs and Quick Revise@CD

#5.Art and Culture

L1 – NCERT (Intro to Indian Art)
L 2 – CCRT Website, Nitin Singhania

For many questions from this section, there is no one standard source because questions seem to be pooled from a large array of books. Reading all those books militates against the cost-benefit ratio and can be safely avoided.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, many of the questions in so-called static subjects like History & Culture are also drawn from current events. Remember kalamkari? 

#6. Economics.

12th NCERT

Eco by Dr. V –

In this section, questions are either from the basics or from current affairs. Generally, complicated questions are absent.

#7. General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization

Ref: Shankar IAS, CD material on Conventions and Organisations, NIOS Material. Last 4 sections of 12th NCERT.

#8. General Science & Technology

Ref: CD material and Current Affairs. Past trends suggest that NCERTs

Economic Survey: CD Analysis
Budget Analysis: CD Analysis
Schemes: CD Quick Revise and Scheme compilation

And not to forget – Current events of national and international importance + Civilsdaily’s android app

Most of us go with The Hindu/Indian Express and it has paid rich dividends over the years in Prelims as well as the Mains (Written + interview)

CD covers the important news items on a daily basis not only from these two dailies but from a motley of sources like PIB, Mint, BBC et al. So following CD on a daily basis might save you a hell lot of efforts.