Booklist for UPSC CSE

Booklist for UPSC CSE

Beginners | Intermediate | Veterans

Table of contents

Everyone is looking for the best books, every topper is talking about the best books, but you need to realise that like with everything else, this is completely subjective.

The best books will depend on:

  1. Your current level of knowledge (beginner, intermediate, veteran)
  2. Your language skills.
  3. Analytical skills. (Which you absolutely need for mains)

Now that that’s out of the way I’ll share a book list for all three levels of preparation. Again, keep in mind that you may have different ideas and that this is just an indicative list, so pick what works for you.


Who is a beginner?

It can be someone who is just starting out their UPSC journey. It can be someone who has read the basic NCERTs and is now looking for reference books. It is anyone who is new to the game and doesn’t know what to look for.

Why aren’t the veterans using them?

Well because after a point you get bored of reading the same material again and again and again and again… you get my point. So you need a change, you need something fresh, and that is one of the reasons why veterans move on.

Still, there are plenty of veterans, and selected candidates who would swear by these books so it’s not as if you will be missing anything.

What’s different about them?

  1. In point format. Easy to understand and clean to look at (mostly).
  2. Simple language. Basic English skills will do.
  3. Explains concepts in detail. Which is why veterans also use them.
  4. Give you clear cut answers. No hera pheri.

Enough gyaan. Tell me the books.

NCERTs - Class VI-X. Read all of them at least once.

NCERTs - Class XI-XII. For History, Geography, Sociology, Psychology.

History - Spectrum. It’s heavy book but a must read if you’re just starting out.

Art & Culture - Fine Arts NCERT Class XI/XII, Class XII History NCERTs.

Ancient & Medieval History - TN Board class XI book. Alternatively, you can do the old NCERTs by Satish Chandra and RS Sharma, but DON’T GO FOR THE BOOKS! Atleast, not at this stage.

Geography - NCERTs Class XI + XII + ATLAS.

Polity - Laxmikant latest edition. No if, no but, just get it done.

Economy - Mrunal Patel’s lectures (funny and informative at the same time). You could also go for the book by Sriram IAS but I’d recommend starting with Mr. Patel.

Environment - Shankar IAS book.

Simple, straightforward and reminds you that you need to attempt more PYQs.

CSAT - Arihant book for relevant topics.

Ethics - Lexicon book.

Current Affairs - Reading newspapers. Don’t make notes yet, just try to understand what’s going on.

PYQs - Any book works but this one by Mrunal is pretty good.

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Who is an intermediate player?

Someone who has been in the game for a while. If you’ve been preparing for over a year, this could be you. If you’ve given an attempt or two, this could be you.

Essentially someone who has a basic grasp on what is needed for UPSC prep. Not the wide-eyed beginner anymore.

What’s different about these books?

  1. In point format.
  2. Uses jargon. Basic knowledge of the subject needed to understand.
  3. May not always go into detail. Assumes that you get what is being said.

And the books?

History (Modern, Ancient and Medieval) same as above. I told you even veterans swear by them.

Art & Culture - Same as above + CCRT website.

Geography - NCERTs Class XI + XII + ATLAS + GC Leong.

Polity - Laxmikant + PM Bakshi (Start reading the bare articles).

Economy - Ramesh Singh book (Selectively. Things are getting serious now!).

Environment - Shankar IAS is golden + MoEFCC website for schemes.

CSAT - Arihant book for relevant topics + PYQs.

Ethics - Lukmaan IAS material.

Current Affairs - Start making notes or read monthly compilations by any major coaching institute. Revise multiple times.

And now finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for.


Who is a veteran?

A veteran is an awesome individual who has stood at the gates of UPSC Civil Services Exam preparation and failed. Possibly multiple times. It’s not because s/he was reading the wrong materials, but because that is the nature of this exam.

Lakhs appear for it, only a few hundreds qualify. The rest… become veterans.

What’s different about these books?

  1. Slightly complex language but you can use these phrases in the exam.
  2. Assumes a certain amount of familiarity with the subject.
  3. Gives you a perspective on the subject and teaches you how to think about it.

Spoon feeding time is over, it’s time to take things up a few gears.

The books

History - From Plassey to Partition & After by Shekhar Bandopadhyay. One of the best books for history if you can digest the ideas. There are no simple answers, but multiple perspectives that will help you think about history.

Art & Culture - Nitin Singhania’s book + CCRT website. There’s a secret to doing it, prioritise chapters on the basis of how many PYQs it has.

Ancient/Medieval - RS Sharma/Satish Chandra. Complete books now because A&M has become increasingly important in the last few years. And you’ve got the time any way so might as well use it.

Geography - NCERTs + GC Leong + Atlas + India Year Book (relevant for the mains questions so read selectively)

Polity - DD Basu’s Introduction to Indian Constitution. Teaches you how to think about the constitution, rather than simply giving you content to rattofy.

Economy - Economic Survey of the relevant year. By this point you should have a clear understanding of concepts and it’s time to read the Official Documents.

Environment - Shankar IAS again, I really don’t have anything else for environment.

CSAT - Arihant book for relevant topics + PYQs.

Ethics - DK Balaji’s article. Practical tips for how to answer case studies for ethics. I didn’t buy his book, only took advice from this article.

Current Affairs - Monthly compilations from any one major institute which need to be reviewed multiple times.

Add-ons - Specific articles from Yojana/Kurukshetra/EPW to add value to areas where you thing you are lacking. With all of these books above you really shouldn’t have time to read the entire magazine to be honest.

So that’s all for today, I hope you all have a wonderful day.

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