Best Recommended Books for IAS Mains GS Paper 1

While preparing for IAS Mains examination, it is very important to know what to read and how the study material should be covered to make maximum utility in the IAS Mains Exam. We are providing here information on all the relevant books for IAS and their coverage according to UPSC Syllabus.

“Well begun is half done”- this phase is truly suited for General Studies Mains paper 1 as most of its syllabus holistically covers the basics of UPSC syllabus. Paper 1 has the most static portion among all the four General Studies papers. A student having a fairly good understanding of standard books may find it easy to approach this paper.

It should be noted that static portion does not mean direct fact based questions from standard books but opinion-based questions are per the given syllabus. It can be divided into three subjects, Indian History, Indian Geography and Indian Society. It can further be subdivided into following topics (these topics are in the precedence of importance in the examination):

Indian History- You can’t create a water tight boundary on history section and hence it’s important to study both in a generalized as well as specialized way. Major Sources or books for History are Ncerts both old and new.

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 and exam oriented format.

Indian Culture from Centre for Cultural Resources and Training Website: This is useful for updating notes with some ongoing cultural events and issues in the country and studying it accordingly.
Modern history by Bipin Chandra (Old NCERT): This Ncert provides an overview or a brief introduction on the beginning of modern times and struggle years. According to the exam point of view a good read of this book can help to comprehend and summarize topics. For Modern history from 1750-1857, this book is the best reference.

Spectrum on 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). Moreover, after every chapter there is summary section which is very beneficial for a quick revision.

Tamil Naidu board 12th class history book: 
In this book only chapters on contributions from southern leaders in freedom struggle is important. It is also a good read if someone wishes to prepare notes on one or two specific leader.

Politics in India since Independence (NCERT): This is 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 on 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. World history is a very much subjected to perceptions and hence it should only be read from ncerts which are a neural source.


Indian geography: All the four new NCERTs of class 11tha d 12th are the most primary source for geography as they cover maximum portion of the subject in a very fundamental and comprehensive manner.

Fundamentals of Physical Geography (NCERT):  This is a very basic book for understanding the geographical phenomenons 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 is very important for examination. Sometimes direct questions are asked from this Ncert.  

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 impact the human activities and how depending on our primary resources development is taking place in various sectors of our economy.

Indian Society: This has proven to be a very scoring section in GS paper 1. The Questions are quite direct and can be answered easily by a candidate who is through with social issues current affairs. This section can be more progressively prepared via newspapers.

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. It can give the required depth in the answers written.

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

To streamline your Mains preparation after prelims, it’s advisable to finish all the overlapping syllabus of this paper with prelims itself. Maintain separate notes for current social and geographical issues impacting the polity and economy of India.

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