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IAS Books Suggested By Toppers For Prelims & Mains

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.

We have compiled a list of IAS books suggested by toppers in the past years. Please note that many books for UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam overlap with books recommended for Prelims. The candidates are advised that instead of reading a book from cover to cover, they should read the selective topics from the books as per the official UPSC syllabus.

List of IAS Prelims Books Suggested by Toppers

  1. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M. Laxmikanth (Polity): This book is very popular among the aspirants and has been a bestseller for many years and is one of the best IAS Prelims book suggested by toppers for the Polity subject.
  2. Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania (Culture):The book covers an entire syllabus of Indian Heritage and culture. The information is also supported by various questions that help in the preparation for the exam.
  3. Oxford School Atlas by Oxford Publishers (Geography): A must-have book for UPSC aspirants, the atlas includes 200 maps with 94 thematic maps of India.
  4. Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GohCheng Leong (Geography):Details of most topics which comprise the syllabus have been covered in a simple and easy to understand language which is supplemented with a range of illustrations and photographs.
  5. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh (Economy):The comprehensive text has a detailed coverage of all the topics for the Preliminary and Mains examination.
  6. Economic Survey by Ministry of Finance (Economy):The most authoritative and updated source of data on the Indian economy. This book provides complete information about the policy and performance of the government.
  7. India Year Book (Current Affairs): Prepared by the Publication Division of the Government of India, the reference book is a compilation of complete information about the current affairs in the country. The information is authentic and is an ideal reference source.
  8. A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir (Modern India): The book talks about the events that took place after the decline of the Mughal Empire and the rise of East India Company. This is one book which should not be missed out if you are running short of time and cannot complete India 's struggle for independence.
  9. General Studies Paper 2 Manual by MHE (CSAT): The book is based on the syllabus and pattern of the examination.
  10. NCERT Books: One of the most preferred IAS prelims book suggested by toppers.

List of IAS Topper Recommended Books for Mains (Paperwise)

GS Paper 1

Indian Heritage and Culture
  1. The Wonder That Was India A.L. Bhasham
  2. Indian Art and Culture Nitin Singhania
India and World History
  1. India's Ancient Past R.S. Sharma
  2. History Of Modern India Bipan Chandra
  3. India's Struggle For Independence Bipan Chandra
  4. Norman Lowe OR History of Modern World Jain and Mathur
Geography of the World and Society
  1. Geography of India Majid Husain (Geography)
  2. Oxford School Atlas Oxford (Geography)
  3. Certificate Physical and Human Geography Goh Cheng Leong (Geography)
  4. Social Problems In India Ram Ahuja

GS Paper 2

  1. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examination
  2. Governance in India for CSE
  3. IAS Mains General Studies Paper 2
  4. Indian Economy Ramesh Singh (Economy)

GS Paper 3

  1. Economic Survey
  2. Science and Technology in India TMH
  3. The Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains Khuller
  4. India Year Book

GS Paper 4

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

List of IAS Topper Recommended Books for Personality Test

  1. Interviews The Last Basic Tips on Facing Civil Services Personality Test (Interview Basics)
  2. Civil Services Interview: How to Excel (How to Face Interview)
  3. What...? When...? How...? Answers to All Questions about Civil Services (Prelims, Mains and Interview)
Every subject is of utmost importance when it comes to the study material, hence, equal weight should be given to different topics. Although the time allotted to every subject will differ depending on the aspirant s strength to learn the subject and be comfortable with the subject. The list of IAS books suggested by toppers and mentors is neither exhaustive nor does it guarantee success, but it definitely helps in the preparation for the examination. It is important to purchase the latest edition of the book in order to ensure that it includes the latest syllabus and incorporates the latest information.

The aspirants can easily access the books from the list given below and choose from them based on their requirements. Due to the extensive syllabus, it is not possible for the aspirant to prepare the entire syllabus within the duration of 6 months to one year. The aspirant must allow more time and spend 10 to 12 hours daily in order to prepare for the examination. Though lakhs of students apply and write this exam, the real competition is only among 2000-3000 serious aspirants. Those who study systematically and consistently get into the civil services.

List of IAS Prelims Books suggested by Toppers for Optional Subjects

Public Administration

  1. Administrative Thinkers D. Ravindra Prasad & V.S. Prasad
  2. Public Administration - RB Aribam
  3. Journals by Indian Institute of Public Administration on current topics like RTI and Civil Society
  4. Indian Public Administration: Institutions and Issues - Ramesh K. Arora and Rajni Goyal

Political Science and International Relations

  1. Political Theory: An Introduction - Andrew Heywood
  2. Foundations of Indian Political Thought: An Interpretation - From Manu to the Present Day - V. R. Mehta
  3. International Relations - Vinay Kumar Malhotra
  4. Does the Elephant Dance? - David M. Malone


  1. A history of ancient and early medieval India - Upinder Singh
  2. Medieval India Satish Chandra
  3. Contemporary World History (NCERT) Arjun Dev & others
  4. Modern Indian History Grover & Grover


  1. Physical Geography- Savindra Singh
  2. Human Geography by Majid Hussain
  3. India a Comprehensive Geography - Khuller
  4. School Atlas - Orient Blackswan/Oxford

Sources for Current Affairs

  • The Hindu
  • Frontline
  • India Year Book is prepared by the Publication Division of the Indian Government. 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. Being a government publication, the information presented is so authentic that it is also used as a reference source by researchers, media, and reputed publications.
  • McGraw-Hill Education s General Studies: Paper II is based on the prescribed syllabus and pattern of the examination. The content is synchronized with the syllabus. The content has been divided as per the prescribed syllabus into seven broad sections. An eighth section is given for practice questions.
  • Last but not least, NCERT books are among the most recommended books by almost all toppers. Collect NCERT books for all Humanities subjects from standard 6-12.

Tips on How to Read the Books for Maximum Cost-Benefit Analysis

It is almost impossible to read all the books mentioned above from cover to cover. The candidates should rather read in a smart way by selectively choosing topics from the books in which they are explained in the best way. There are other 201 books which are recommended on many sites but, reading from at max two sources on one subject is enough. The other books should be used to plug gaps here and there.

The mantra for success in UPSC is revision again and again. Once the syllabus is complete, the focus should be laid on the regular revision of the topics. Side by side a candidate should keep in touch with the current affairs and update the notes accordingly.

The list of IAS prelims books suggested by toppers is not exhaustive and there are many more options available in the market. These are only some of the books recommended by the toppers in the past years.


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