UPSC Civil Services Exam Preparation 2018: Best Books suggested by IAS Toppers

IAS Toppers are often regarded as role models by aspiring IAS Exam candidates and it is extremely important for IAS aspirants to acquaint themselves with the books, sources, and study material followed by IAS Toppers. Hence, we provide latest, most important and scoring books/sources list referred by IAS Toppers for IAS Exam. These books will help you in clearing the Civil Services Exam 2018.
Best Books for IAS Preparation given by IAS Toppers

What did UPSC IAS toppers study to clear the ias preliminary exam? What are the best books to crack upsc civil services prelims? All these questions often wonder the mind of an ias aspirant as it is easier to follow a role model who has already qualified a tough exam like the IAS Exam.

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Ias prelims is the first and most important step for upsc exam and most of the aspirants are eliminated at this stage itself. Hence, ias prelims require extra hard work, sometimes students have a couple of months in stored totally devoted to the ias prelims preparation.

Ias toppers are often regarded as role models by aspiring ias exam candidates and it is extremely important for ias aspirants to acquaint themselves with the books, sources and study material followed by ias toppers. Generally, it has been seen that due to lack of proper information and guidance, the ias aspirants waste their time in reading the wrong material which will never be fruitful for ias preparation.

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Here, we share the list of the most important books for civil services prelims examination as suggested by the ias toppers. Here we are giving all the must-read books for upsc prelims 2018. This will enhance your preparation and also help you to crack upsc ias Exam 2018.

Best Books for IAS Prelims:  

‘Ancient India’ by RS Sharma (Old NCERT) has good coverage of upsc ias prelims syllabus and you will find a number of questions that have been directly asked from this book.

History of medieval India by Satish Chandra (Old NCERT) is more relevant in medieval history section because it has good coverage of topics of the medieval history of India.

‘A brief history of modern India’ by spectrum publications as well as ‘Concise history of modern India’ by Sujata Menon has good coverage of the modern history syllabus for the IAS prelims exam.

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• To Indian culture section, the aspirant should go through the book ‘facets of Indian culture’ by spectrum publications and also through the website of ‘centre for cultural resources and training’.

• Indian culture from centre for cultural resources and training website: This is useful to update notes with some ongoing cultural events and issues in the country and study it accordingly.

• Old ncert books are most preferred for the preparation of Indian Geography. For physical geography Goh Cheng Leong’s ‘certificate physical and human geography’ is more relevant. Aspirants must go through the Oxford school atlas while studying physical geography.

• Books most recommended for the preparation of Indian polity are ‘Indian polity’ by Laxmikanth and an introduction to the constitution of India by D. D. Basu. With the above standard books for Indian polity, the ias aspirant must finish the old ncert books of the Indian polity.

Current Issues and Events

• Manorma Yearbook - Manorama Yearbook is an authoritative and useful compendium of current affairs, general knowledge and special articles designed to cater to the needs of readers, irrespective of their background. The Current Affairs segment covers the major events in 2020, besides the popular sections on Government initiatives and Skill Development. Quiztival carries more than 1,000 questions from 100 topics mostly drawn from the Indian context. The Calendar of Events summarises the monthly events in a new format — arranged under three to five subjects and
with a highlight for every month. 

• For the basic concepts and terminologies of economics, ncert books are enough for IAS Preparation. It is essential to reach the macroeconomics class 12th textbook by ncert because it covers the basic terminologies of the Indian economy, which are quite helpful for understanding the growth and development of the country.

• For further study of the Indian economy, most recommended books are ‘Indian Economy’ by Ramesh Singh, ‘Indian Economy’ by Mishra and Puri and the precise material of Economic Survey.

• For the preparation of environmental and ecology section, the ias aspirants must go through the environment and ecology study materials provided by NIOS. Apart from that aspirants should keep a close watch on the development projects of the ministry of environment & forests, Government of India and United Nations’ UNFCCC.

• In analytical reasoning section, most of the aspirants prefer RS Aggrawal but they should also take the help of MK Pandey’s Analytical Reasoning. RS Aggarwal has good coverage of various topics, but in terms of comprehension MK Pandey’s explanations and illustrations are much more advanced and lucid.

RS Aggarwal of S Chand publication is enough for the preparation of Mathematics. This book has comprehensive coverage of the topics of ias syllabus and there is no requirement of studying other books separately.

For current affairs, best recommended practices are to read the Hindu newspaper, magazines or other digital media platforms.

General Studies Paper 2 Manual by MHE (CSAT): This book is based on the prescribed syllabus of the examination. The content is in sync with the syllabus. The content has been divided as per the prescribed syllabus into seven broad sections. All sections have a vivid amount of practice questions that are good for exam.

UPSC IAS Exam Syllabus 2018

Best Books for IAS Mains:

General Studies IAS Mains Paper 1

Ancient History by R.S Sharma (Old NCERT):  This book has vast coverage of time periods and dynasties, but only the social-cultural and religious outlook from each chapter is important and should be noted separately.

Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania: This book has relevance in prelims as well as mains. It is advisable to read the whole book at least once because it is written in a very easy format which is exam oriented.

The modern history of Bipin Chandra (Old NCERT): This ncert provides an overview or a brief introduction at the beginning of modern times and struggles years. According to the exam point of view, a good read of this book can help to comprehend and summarise topics.

The spectrum of modern India by Rajiv Ahir: This book is a must for very aspirant as it proves to be a high yielding book in the prelims as well as mains. Especially, the modern history chapters for freedom struggle are excellently written (1857-1947).

Politics in India since Independence (NCERT): This is a new ncert on political developments in India since independence. Topics like administrative and political changes like emergency times, Punjab crisis, and all the wars that India was associated with since independence can be done from here.

India since Independence by Bipin Chandra (Old NCERT): This is a very big book and it is advisable to make notes from this only on chapters on social and economic consolidation of the nation after independence and few chapters on constitution building, princely state consolidation and social changes.

World History ncerts by Arjun Dev (Old NCERT): This class 12 ncert is very comprehensive of all the topics in world history impacting India from the world wars to the cold war era.

Fundamentals of Physical Geography (NCERT): This is a very basic book for understanding the geographical phenomenon and some very specific topics like salient features of world’s physical geography as mentioned in the syllabus.

Fundamentals of Human Geography (NCERT): This has specific chapters on primary, secondary and tertiary activities existent in different locations in the world, depending on the geological activities which are very important for examination.

India: Physical Environment (NCERT): Basics of Indian physical geographical features and ecological interactions can be easily prepared from this book. It covers topics like Indian climate and vegetation in a holistic manner, making it easy to grasp.

India People and Economy (NCERT): This book will cover how Indian physical environment impacts the human activities and how depending on our primary resources development is taking place in various sectors of our economy.

Indian Society (NCERT): Evolution of Indian society and diverse classes impacting the growth of Indian society can be easily covered from this ncert. This will give you an evolutionary outlook on how Indian society customs and trends came into existence.

Click here for more Current Affairs Study Material

Social Change and Development in India (NCERT): relevant topics like globalisation, Indian family dynamics and women organisations can be prepared from this book. It gives a progressive viewpoint on social issues impacting the development in the nation and vice versa.

General Studies IAS Mains Paper 2

Indian Constitution at Work (NCERT): Aspirants from the science background who are totally new to the concept of Indian polity and how it functions in a general fashion should read this book first.

Indian Polity by Laxmikanth: Perhaps, the most important source for Indian polity for the ias prelims as well as mains exam. It has excellent content coupled with good examples from famous judicial case to give a detailed account on Indian constitutional machinery. Any going event’s static part can be covered by this book. Read the book from the first to last page and try to recall as much as possible. All the conventional topics for mains can be covered from this book.

Introduction to the Constitution of India by D.D. Basu: It is highly recommended book for topics like making of the Indian constitution, preamble and fundamental rights because of its unique outlook towards constitutional interpretation.

Governance in India by Laxmikanth: Topics like the role of civil servants in the democracy, transparency in governance and e- governance role in society can be covered from this book. It also gives a detailed view on administrative reforms.

India Year Book: Only specific chapters on welfare schemes, education, health and non- governmental organisations can be read to make notes on new schemes launched by Government of India.

Contemporary World Politics (NCERT): For the basic understanding of Indian foreign policy just after the independence, this ncert is a good source. It should be read in one go just to get a rough idea on India’s stand in international politics.

Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor: This book is a reference book and should definitely be covered while understanding India’s stand in United Nations and other relevant international forum.

General Studies IAS Mains Paper 3:

Indian Economy NCERTs of class 11th and 12th: As we have suggested books for general studies paper I of ias prelims Exam, same ncerts books will be followed for the basic understanding of economics also.

Economic Outlook and Policy Challenges Part 1

Indian Economy for Civil Services Exam by Ramesh Singh: After building the fundamental base with ncerts, next level of preparation can be started with this book. It specifically contains all the relevant syllabus topics of upsc preparation. It can be used by beginners as a substitute of Indian Economy by Mishra and Puri which is difficult to comprehend for a non-economics student.

Indian Economy by Uma Kapilla: It is an excellent source for studying Indian economy since independence as it contains a vivid account of economic reforms in the early stage of planning era.

Economic Survey and Fiscal Budget: It has been noticed from the previous year question papers that some of the questions are directly asked from the annual financial statement. Therefore, highlights of economic survey and budget is a must read. But the aspirants have to be very selective in this part because these resources are so huge and complex to understand.

India People and Economy (NCERT): This book will cover how Indian physical environment impacts the human activities and how depending on our primary resources development is taking place in various sectors of our economy. It covers topics like Indian agriculture and practices in a holistic manner, making it easy to grasp.

ARC Report on Disaster Management: The report is one of the best sources to understand India’s current state of Disaster or crisis management. Moreover, it contains important information on the institutional mechanism to handle the crisis. It is highly authentic and direct suggestions on social mechanisms for crisis management can be quoted from here.

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India Year Book: Only specific chapters on welfare schemes, education, health, disaster management and internal security concerns can be read from here to make notes on new developments undertaken by the Government of India.

For Science and Technology: It is true that there is no such study material for science and technology for GS paper III available in the market. Some of the publishers are publishing books on it, but it is a waste of both time and money.

General Studies IAS Mains Paper 4:

IGNOU Study Material for Ethics Course: This material is designed for students who are totally new to the subject matter of ethics but since it contains the fundaments of ethics and integrity, it holds importance.

Justice: What’s the right thing to do? - By Michael Sandel:  This gives a real insight into morality and ethical behaviour in human life. It can progressively be used to answer some basic questions like what is ethics and how it influences the ambience around the globe.

Psychology NCERT class 12th book: The utility is only for covering specific chapters like attitude, attitude, thinking and perception.

Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude for Civil Services Examination by G. Subba Rao: This is not a one go read the book, but it requires efforts and time to understand the content. It provides you with good examples from the Indian context.

Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude for IAS General Studies by Niraj Kumar: This book is for aspirants having a basic idea of ethics and value system and they need to revise and brush up their answers according to the relevance in the mains exam.

Administrative Reforms Commission Report on Ethics: if an aspirant wants to support his/her argument from a logical stand, administrative reform commission’s recommendations can help to enhance the conclusion of their answers.

Minimum Books for IAS Exam:





Ancient History

‘Ancient India’ by RS Sharma (Old NCERT)

World Geography

Fundamentals of Human Geography (NCERT)


Certificate Physical And Human Geography Paperback

Medieval History

History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra (Old NCERT)


India People and Economy (NCERT)


Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh

Modern History

A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir


World History by Norman Lowe


‘Concise History of Modern India’ by Sujata Menon


Indian Polity by Laxmikanth

Indian Culture

‘Facets of Indian Culture’ by Spectrum


Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania


CCRT website

Current Affairs

The Hindu, Indian Express, PIB, Jagran Josh

Physical Geography

Certificate Physical And Human Geography Paperback


Science & Tech

Notes by Shankar IAS


ISRO website

Indian Geography

India: Physical Environment (NCERT)

Environment & Ecology

Recent Events on Climate change through Newspapers


NIOS Study Materials

Review of Economic Development

Economic Survey 2017-18: Analysis and Questions

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