Guide to the Best UPSC Preparation Books for IAS Prelims and Mains

upsc book list

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam, also known as the Civil Services Examination (CSE), is one of the most prestigious and challenging exams in India. The key to successfully navigating this exam lies in the strategic selection and usage of the best UPSC books. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with an extensive list of recommended books for UPSC, covering both Prelims and Mains exams.

Importance of Selecting the Right UPSC Book

The UPSC syllabus is extensive and requires careful study planning. Selecting the right resources, specifically the best UPSC Book, is crucial for your preparation. These books must be up-to-date, reliable, and relevant to the exam pattern and syllabus.

  • Comprehensive Coverage: The best IAS books offer comprehensive coverage of the vast syllabus, ensuring that aspirants are well-prepared for all the topics and subjects included in the examination.
  • Concept Clarity: They help build a strong foundation by explaining complex concepts clearly and concisely, making it easier for candidates to grasp and retain information.
  • Relevance to Exam: The right IAS books are tailored to the specific requirements of the UPSC exam, providing content that is directly relevant to the questions and topics that appear in the test.
  • Practice and Revision: Many IAS books include practice questions, previous years’ papers, and revision notes, enabling candidates to test their knowledge and revise effectively.
  • Time Efficiency: Using recommended IAS books can save aspirants time by guiding them towards the most important and pertinent study materials, preventing them from getting lost in the sea of information.

Best Books for UPSC Prelims

The UPSC Prelims consist of two papers – General Studies (GS) and Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). Both papers are objective type with negative marking. Here is a list of the best books for UPSC Prelims:


  • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra – Buy Now
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania – Buy Now
  • NCERT XI (Ancient & Medieval) – Buy Now
  • NCERT XII (Modern Indian History) – Buy Now


  • Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong – Buy Now
  • NCERT VI – X (Old Syllabus) – Buy Now
  • NCERT XI, XII (New Syllabus) – Buy Now
  • World Atlas (Orient Black Swan) – Buy Now

Indian Polity


  • Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania – Buy Now
  • Economic Development & Policies in India – Jain & Ohri – Buy Now
  • NCERT XI – Buy Now

International Relations

  • NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics) – Buy Now
  • Current Affairs


  • Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual – Buy Now
  • Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning – R S Aggarwal – Buy Now

Solved Papers

  • IAS General Studies Prelims Solved Papers – Vishal Publications – Buy Now

Best Books for UPSC Mains

After clearing the Prelims, candidates move to the Mains stage, which consists of nine theory papers. Two of these papers are on an optional subject, chosen by the candidate. Here are the best books for UPSC Mains:

History, Indian Heritage & Culture [GS Paper 1]

  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania – Buy Now
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra – Buy Now
  • India after Independence by Bipan Chandra – Buy Now
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra – Buy Now
  • Ancient India by R.S Sharma – Buy Now

Geography [GS Paper 1]

  • Geography of India by Majid Husain – Buy Now
  • World Geography by Majid Husain – Buy Now
  • World Atlas (Orient Black Swan) – Buy Now
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography – G C Leong – Buy Now
  • Fundamentals of Physical Geography NCERT Class 11 – Buy Now

Polity & International Relations [GS Paper 2]

  • Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth – Buy Now
  • Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu – Buy Now
  • International Relations: Pushpesh Pant – Buy Now

Economy [GS Paper 3]

  • Indian Economy – Nitin Singhania – Buy Now
  • Environment and Disaster Management – Tata McGraw Hill – Buy Now
  • Challenges to Internal Security of India – Ashok Kumar – Buy Now

Ethics [GS Paper 4]

  • Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude for Civil Services Main Examination by Subba Rao and P.N. Roy Chaudary – Buy Now

Solved Papers

  • IAS General Studies Prelims Solved Papers – Vishal Publications – Buy Now

UPSC Preparation Books for Optional Subjects

Choosing the right optional subject is crucial as it can impact your overall score. Here are some suggested books for various optional subjects:


  • Agronomy By Yellamananda Reddy – Buy Now
  • Soil Science – D.K Das Or Brady – Buy Now
  • Genetics By B.D.Singh – Buy Now
  • Entomology – Vasantha Raj & David – Buy Now
  • Special Issue of Agriculture by The Hindu – Buy Now


  • N. Hasnain: Tribal India – Buy Now
  • Herskovits: Cultural Anthropology – Buy Now
  • Surender Nath: Forensic Anthropology – Buy Now
  • Herskovits: Cultural Anthropology – Buy Now
  • Stein & Rowe: An Introduction to Physical Anthropology – Buy Now


  • Taxonomy: Nair along with Datta – Buy Now
  • Embryology: Bhojwani and Bhatnagar – Buy Now
  • Physiology and Biochemistry: Salisbury and Ross or Fritz and Noggle – Buy Now
  • Economic Botany: Kochar or Verma – Buy Now


  • Theoretical principles of inorganic chemistry – G.S. Manku, – Buy Now
  • Extradition of metals, Principle of inorganic chemistry – Puri, Sharma, Jauhar. – Buy Now
  • Advance physical chemistry – Gurdeep Raj – Buy Now
  • A guide to mechanism in organic chemistry – Peter Sykes – Buy Now


  • International Economics – Bo Soderston – Buy Now
  • National Income Accounting – Bakerman – Buy Now
  • Banking – S.B. Gupta – Buy Now
  • International Trade – Bo Soderston – Buy Now

Other UPSC Article

UPSC Syllabus 2024: A Comprehensive Guide for Prelims, Mains, and Interview

Comprehensive Analysis of UPSC Prelims CutOff: A Closer Look at the 2023 Predictions

Unveiling the Success Stories: UPSC Toppers of Recent Years

UPSC Syllabus 2024: Comprehensive Guide for Civil Services Prelims and Mains

UPSC Study Material

Apart from the books, you will need additional study material to cover the extensive UPSC syllabus. This includes:

  • 2nd ARC Report
  • Economic Survey (Latest)
  • Budget (Latest)
  • Finance Commission Report (Latest)
  • Annual reports by central ministries
  • Current Affairs
  • Niti Aayog Action Agenda

UPSC Books Online

Given the digital age, candidates can also opt for e-books. These are readily available online and can be accessed from anywhere. Candidates can easily download these UPSC online books for free. These e-books offer the convenience of portability and easy access.

UPSC Books: Conclusion

The journey of UPSC preparation is challenging yet rewarding. The key to success lies in choosing the right study materials and leveraging them to your advantage. Remember, it’s not about how many books you read, but how well you understand and absorb the knowledge from the books you choose. Happy studying and all the best for your UPSC journey!

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