5 Books to Read for Civil Services Exam

June 7, 2014

Indian Civil Services exam is one of the most difficult exams to crack.

For those who are not conversant with its strenuous history, allow me to share some numbers with you. In 2012, nearly 4.5 Lakh students appeared for this exam; 15,000 qualified for the prelims and only 998 made it into the final list. With a record 0.1% selection rate, it is as bad as landing an airplane in the dark with no radar. There is no place for the feeble hearted.

In this article, I shall attempt to provide an overview of the pivotal subjects and the corresponding books to wage a war against the belligerent enemy named UPSC. A thorough study of the N.C.E.R.T Books to jog your memory with the elementary concepts in all subjects is taken for granted.

Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth


It is vital to get under the skin of the Indian political system and Constitution. Questions from Indian Polity in the prelims constituted only 8% in 2012, but this was increased to 18% in 2013. There is a dedicated paper on this subject in the MAINS as well, which requires rigorous study.

This book helps in clearing the concepts in a lucid manner. The structure and content is clear and concrete. Since, the subject involves constitutional jargon, it can get quite arduous for a novice to get a grip on this subject. However, the author makes sure from the incipient to keep things neat, tidy and crisp making sure not to overburden the reader. The author is cognizant of his reading audience and showcases a communicative tone to elucidate even the toughest of topics with ease. Every chapter has a cogent summary to brush up the topics.

At the end of the book there is the question bank offering 10 years of questions from UPSC papers and appendices work as quick references to help you retain what you have learnt. I would like to draw comparison of this book with Indian Constitution by D.D.Basu, which is an equally good book, but the language in the latter is not as simple.  M. Laxmikanth also covers a few more topics in this book like Foreign Policy, CVC CBI, etc., which help it win brownie points. The page quality is high and pricing is on par with other books. Read this review of the book for more. Buy Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth

Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh


Indian Economy is in shambles. The Government is trying to recover from the downward spiral. If the government can’t figure out how to redeem the economy, then it would be foolish of me to blame any person for his failure to understand this subject.

Ramesh Singh introduces this subject in beautiful way. The fundamentals are illustrated with a profound storyline adduced with proper examples and real life scenarios. Just like the Indian Constitution, the subject is filled with a truck load of technical terms which may appear esoteric at the beginning, but the author demonstrates impeccable narration to keep the reader engaged and on track in the light of understanding. Since this subject is not factual and static theory is limited, the understanding of the key terms is essential.

The author is a veteran in this subject and unfailingly portrays this through his writing prowess. The syllabus is comprehensively covered with ample attention paid to the MCQs without making the subject mundane.

I strongly recommend this book not only for IAS aspirants, but also for commerce students who are pursuing their education in a similar field. Buy Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh

Indian and World Geography by Majid Hussain


Geography is a tedious subject. This book endeavours to furnish enough information to help you gauge the fundamentals of the subject.

The book is written in a simple language supported by pertinent diagrams. The book delves into the various topics, but it fails to fish out the details from each topic. The book can keep you glued; however, it may arouse a grouse, leaving you hungry for more information. Overall, the book will surely keep you occupied and help you develop the correct approach. Buy Indian and World Geography by Majid Hussain




A Brief History of Modern India – Rajiv Ahir


Indian History before Independence has been guillotined with copious incidents and revolutions. Every aspirant asks, ‘Why should I read this book?’ Permit me to counter this question with another question: ‘Could you name 5 Freedom fighters from South India?’ Gotcha! Now, you are caught in a crack. Aren’t you? You read Indian history, didn’t you? Oops! Pardon me for being a bully, but this is exactly how I was introduced to this subject.

Rajiv Ahir exhibits a marvelous writing style paying attention to detail in each topic without appearing soporific or tautological. History often induces us with Sleeping Syndrome, but this book proved to be exactly the opposite. The contents are well laid out with emphasis on point format elucidation instead of paragraphed trauma. The book is written to please even the most naive readers, surprisingly. The author has effaced anything extraneous.

I strongly advise this book for its conciseness and clear approach. If you wish to learn about Indian history post independence, you could look at this book. For another view of the subject, try India After Gandhi. Buy A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir

General Studies for Civil Services Preliminary Examination Paper – II


The Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) is unlike other aptitude tests. It is not like conventional aptitude tests as seen in CAT, XAT, NMAT, etc. CSAT is on the easier side.  However, an in-depth study is still critical to make the cut offs. This is meticulously written, covering all the topics with apt emphasis given to decision making and problem solving questions. The solving technique is also explained with abundant examples and formulae.

The book is expensive and may burn a hole in your pocket. However, Knowledge is never a waste. It is an investment worth the risk because you have to ‘Risk it to get the Biscuit’. Buy General Studies for Civil Services Preliminary Examination Paper II



Written by Farrukh Kidwai

Love to read Non-Fiction, Auto biographies, A software programmer but not a very good one, an adventurist


  • PRASANTH RADHAKRISHNAN July 17, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra is a must read for prelims and mains.

    • IndiaBookStore July 18, 2014 at 8:16 AM

      Thanks for the suggestion, Prasanth! Are you appearing for the UPSC exams this year? Any other book recommendations?

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