Smallest Booklist for UPSC Civil Services Prelims

I have shared smallest booklist for UPSC Prelims. Prelims is the biggest and the most dicey hurdle for IAS aspirants. I can vouch for this as I flunked the 2015 Prelims despite feeling well prepared.

Smallest Booklist for UPSC Prelims
Smallest Booklist for UPSC Prelims

The GS paper in UPSC Prelims 2017 has shown how unpredictable this exam can get. After basing the previous year’s paper almost entirely on Current Affairs, they have suddenly tested the core concepts this time. This has come as a shocker for most of the aspirants, specially the new entrants.

In my opinion, this year’s Prelims paper is the ideal one as it values rigorous understanding of core concepts rather than mugging up facts from monthly current affairs magazines. This also highlights the need to stick to the core books no matter what.

Before we go into the UPSC Prelims Booklist, let me highlight a few points regarding Prelims preparation:

  1. Take a print out of the whole syllabus of Prelims and go through it multiple times for the first few days of preparation. Internalize it. Understand what exactly is demanded.
  2. Do not underestimate the power of NCERT Books.  They are the concept builders. They are the foundation. Whatever you will learn through the preparation will depend on how well you have read and understood NCERT books. So begin with NCERT Books.
  3. Google extensively. Wherever you face lack of conceptual clarity, just Google.
  4. Youtube has some of the most wonderful explainer videos, specially for Geography concepts and Economics concepts. Take their help.
  5. Purchase Topicwise Previous Years UPSC Prelims Questions book. Go through the questions asked from each topic before you start reading them. This will orient you towards important things to focus.
  6. Highlight important text in the second reading.

So here is the smallest Book List for UPSC Prelims exam. Some of them are linked to help you download or buy online:

Smallest Booklist for UPSC Prelims

History, Art & Culture:

  1. NCERT History (Old) of Classes 6,7,8, 11 and 12.
  2. Tamil Nadu Board History of Classes 11 and 12.
  3. Spectrum A Brief History Of Modern India (Go for this Old Edition)
  4. NCERT An Introduction to Indian Art (Class 11).
  5. Nitin Singhania Hand Written Notes on Art & Culture.


  1. NCERT Class 11 & 12 Geography Textbooks (Refer to lower class books if absolute beginner)
  2. The Orient Blackswan School Atlas
  3. Certificate Physical and Human Geography (G C Leong)
  4. Refer to Mrunal Youtube Channel


  1. Indian Polity 5th Edition (Laxmikanth)
  2. NCERT Class XI: Indian Constitution At Work
  3. Refer to Constitution of India App for bare Acts.

Ecology & Environment

  1. NCERT Class 12 Biology (Only 4 chapters on Ecology)
  2. NCERT Class 11 Chemistry Part 2 (Unit 14: Environmental Chemistry chapter only)
  3. Environment by Shankar IAS Academy


  1. NCERT Class 12: Introductory Macroeconomics
  2. NCERT Class 11: Indian Economic Development
  3. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh (Read strictly according to syllabus, not cover to cover)
  4. You may refer to Sriram IAS Academy Economics Book
  5. Watch Investopedia video explanations of different concepts (Google ‘Economics Terminology + Investopedia’)

Current Affairs

  1. Refer to any monthly current affair magazine of any one coaching institute. Highlight important parts and revise multiple times.
  2. All India Radio News at 9 PM
  3. The Big Picture debate show on RSTV
  4. Economic Survey (selective reading only)
  5. Daily Coverage by Insights or Civils Daily.

General Science

  1. NCERT Science Books of Class 9-10 (skip if have strong Science background)
  2. Coverage from Current Affairs

So this is the only book list you will ever need to crack UPSC Prelims. Do not refer to any other book. Rather revise these limited books as many times as you can. You must have your basic concepts thoroughly clear.

Click Here for Indian Polity Notes for UPSC

18 thoughts on “Smallest Booklist for UPSC Civil Services Prelims”

  1. Nayanika Pathak

    Sir every aspirant knows these book list you can help us by uploading some of your answer sheets thnx

  2. Sir,what about the new ncerts like our pasts, themes of indian history, social and economic life etc. Is it important to refer to these as well?

  3. The Dark Prince

    Hello Somesh
    Eagerly awaiting for ur strategy on how to read these books for maximum Returns
    Thanks in advance 🙂

  4. Sir confuse in monthly magazine please review Shankar IAS and vision
    Vision is boaring to read and Shankar misses some part
    Should I opt for both please suggest waste 3 days in thinking suggest magazine which is best according to prelim and mains failed this time in prelim (102) ,I don’t want to taste failure again .

  5. Thank you very much sir for creating awesome blog. Sir if you have time then please post blog on how to read these books with maximum return.

  6. Respected sir, i’m undergraduate 2nd year student with Geo hons of MU Bihar(patna),and started preparing for cse but sir facing difficulties in understanding some topics/theory, our professor don’t take classes nor classes run regularly ,pls suggest any individual professor or a good teacher who can help me. in Patna / Delhi. also sir any suggestion regarding preparation during ug is most welcomed. THANK YOU SIR!

  7. Trishala Jain

    Respected Sir,
    Can you please tell me which books to refer to for Geography as an optional subject? I have watched the concerned youtube video but I am a bit confused w the books, especially for diagrams.

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