Comprehensive Book-list for CS Mains GS and Essay


Disclaimer: This is an exhaustive book-list suggested by a user, @Etat, and does not reflect the official book-list of ForumIAS.

Books for the Civil Services (Main) Examination include most books that have already been prescribed for the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination. Some of the common sources include –

N.B.: board text-books referred to here in this article refer only to class XI and XII textbooks unless otherwise specified. Texts of lower classes may be useful to you if you do not even know the basic concepts (i.e. if you belonged to a different stream that the stream of the book concerned).

Books that you need to purchase are listed below by section (along with free ones). The thing to bear in mind is that you need to find your best source. For that, you need –

  1. To know the full Mains GS syllabus (discussed here, under the CS Mains Syllabus)
  2. Browse multiple books at a bookshop / library (preferably)
  3. Follow the recommendations below (in case you do not have the time / energy)
  4. Pick one base book and refer to other books to get alternative perspectives / points
  5. You do not need to read every single book mentioned in the list below. Base books chosen below are subjective. You may as well find other books better suited to your need
  6. If your Optional has overlap with a section of GS, you do not need to do that section from additional GS-oriented books. Make your optional books your base

Note: Books listed below often cover the same topic below. Choose according to your need.

Section-wise books:

These are listed out by general sections of the Mains syllabus. We have tried to be exhaustive. You do not need to read everything listed. Pick the one you like. If in doubt go with the books that are recommended.

Indian Culture / Ancient-Medieval Indian History

  1. NCERT textbooks of History
  2. NCERT textbooks in Heritage Crafts
  3. NIOS Indian Culture and Painting textbooks
  4. A. L. Basham – A Cultural history of India
  5. Spectrum – Facets Of Indian Culture (too much information)
  6. Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) website
  7. Nitin Singhania’s notes on Culture
  8. Tamil Nadu board History textbooks (Better focus on South Indian History, eg. Sangam Literature)
  9. IGNOU modules on Culture
  10. India Year Book relevant chapters

Modern-Post-Independence Indian History

  1. NCERT textbooks of Modern History
  2. NIOS textbooks of Modern History
  3. Spectrum – ‘A Brief History of Modern India’
  4. Sekhar Bandyopadhyay – ‘From Plassey to Partition’
  5. Bipan Chandra – ‘India’s Struggle For Independence’ and ‘India Since Independence’
  6. Dutt & Sundaram – ‘Indian Economy’ – (1st few chapters for the economic history of India)
  7. IGNOU B.A. History modules

World History and Political Ideologies (History of ideas) –

  1. Wizard / Ankur Sharma – ‘World History for IAS Exam’
  2. Chronicle – World History (Renaissance to US’ Afghanistan withdrawal)
  3. Norman Lowe – ‘Mastering Modern World History’
  4. O P Gauba – ‘Introduction to Political Theory’ (superficial / focused read for GS)

Physical, Indian and World Geography –

  1. NCERT textbooks of Geography
  2. NIOS textbooks of Geography (especially Agriculture part)
  3. Prachi Atlas / Oxford School Atlas
  4. Goh Cheng Leong – ‘Certificate Physical and Human Geography’ (Good base, but not updated in a long time. Some issues with language used)
  5. Teach Yourself Series / J K Chopra – World Geography (for CS exams)
  6. Majid Hussain – World Geography, Indian Geography
  7. K Siddhartha – Economic Geography
  8. Dr. Alka Gautam – World Geography
  9. Spectrum – Indian Geography
  10. Shankar IAS notes – Agriculture

Sociology –

  1. NCERT textbooks of Sociology
  2. NIOS textbooks of Sociology
  3. Current affairs form Newspaper
  4. Doshi & Jain – ‘Rural Sociology’
  5. Ram Ahuja – ‘Social Problems in India’ and ‘Indian Social System’ (books are out of date; needs supplementation)
  6. Yogendra Singh – ‘Modernization of Indian Tradition’
  7. UNDP – ‘Human Development Report’ (read the summary and the part about India / developing countries / LDCs)

Women and Women’s Issues – 

  1. Covered above under sociology
  2. Current affairs form Newspaper
  3. NCW publication – ‘Meera Didi Se Poocho
  4. NCW publication on Gender Budgeting
  5. Websites of NCW and MoWCD
  6. Newspaper and internet research
  7. India Year Book relevant chapters

Development and Welfare Schemes –

  1. India Year Book relevant chapters
  2. Economic Survey
  3. Mrunal
  4. Online research
  5. Newspaper and internet research

Governance – 

  1. No concrete source exists. You have to Google each topic and study online
  2. You may refer to the textbook of Public Administration by M Laxmikanth, but only read selectively and avoid going into optional-level details for GS
  3. Newspaper and internet research
  4. India Year Book relevant chapters

International Relations –

  1. This topic is too fast-changing to be satisfactorily covered by textbooks, so your Newspaper notes and internet research would be your base
  2. Use Wikipedia carefully. Do not accept anything written on any page. Anyone can edit them and IR is a magnet for troll edits that might cost you dearly
  3. IDSA monographs from their website
  4. V N Khanna – ‘International Relations’ (for a background, including UNO)
  5. V N Khanna – ‘Foreign Policy of India’ (any textbook must be updated from newspaper for IR)

Polity –

  1. The Constitution of India – actual current text (available a booklets widely / read online)
  2. NCERT and NIOS textbooks (Pol. Sc.)
  3. M Laxmikanth – ‘Indian Polity’
  4. DD Basu – ‘Introduction to the Constitution of India’
  5. Representation of the People Act – Focus on current affairs part /give the acts a read
  6. Election Commission of India – Electoral Laws – Handbook for candidates (refer)
  7. PRS India website

Disaster Management –

  1. Erach Bharucha – ‘Textbook of Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Courses’
  2. NIDM publications (skim only – risk of information overload)
  3. Ashok Kumar / Vipul – TMH – ‘Internal Security & Disaster Management’
  4. IGNOU Disaster Management modules
  5. Newspaper and internet research

National Security –

  1. Ashok Kumar / Vipul – TMH – ‘Internal Security & Disaster Management’
  2. IDSA monographs from their website
  3. Relevant chapters from India Year Book
  4. SIPRI Yearbook
  5. Newspaper and internet research

Economics and Food –

  1. NCERT and NIOS textbooks
  2. Khan Academy course on Macroeconomics to build concepts
  3. Dutt & Sundaram – ‘Indian Economy’ (read superficially)
  4. The Economic Survey
  5. Summary of the latest Budget
  6. Newspaper and internet research
  7. Shankar IAS notes – Agriculture
  8. Newspaper and internet research for current events such as WTO
  9. India Year Book relevant chapters

Environment –

  1. Erach Bharucha – ‘Textbook of Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Courses’
  2. NCERT Biology and Chemisty of XI-XII – last few chapters
  3. Shankar IAS notes – Environment
  4. TMH We Series – ‘Science & Technology for Civil Services’ (few chapters)
  5. Newspaper and internet research
  6. India Year Book relevant chapters

Land Reforms –

  1. Doshi & Jain – ‘Rural Sociology’
  2. Dutt & Sundaram – ‘Indian Economy’
  3. IGNOU modules
  4. Newspaper and internet research
  5. India Year Book relevant chapters

Science and Technology –

  1. NCERT XI-XII science books (superficial data but deep concepts)
  2. TMH We Series – ‘Science & Technology for Civil Services’
  3. Newspaper and internet research
GS – IV / Ethics Paper –
  1. Subba Rao / Roy Chowdhury – ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’
  2. Ajmeera / Reddy / TMH – ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’
  3. Chronicle – ‘Lexicon For Ethics ,Integrity and Aptitude’
Essay –
  1. Preparation for GS should cover for Essay
  2. You can pick up any book of essays for the exam and have a look at important topics
  3. Buy any book on ‘Common Errors in English’ to make sure you dot your i-s and cross your t-s

Past Papers and Model Answers –

  1. There are many books available. Get any one that you like.
  2. Download the latest question papers from UPSC’s own question paper repository.