Strategy Document Too Many Books


• By Indu Gupta, Director

If there is one thing that can be said for civil services exam, it is the perception of reading a large no. of books to be successful. When you had first planned to start preparation for civils, many questions like, ‘you will have to do a lot of hard work, will you?’ or ‘you will need to study a lot of books, will you?’ would had been asked from you. These questions, unknowingly, create a mindset that if you will not read “so many” books, you will not succeed.

This mindset gets another shot when you visit hot centres of civil services exam, like Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Allahabad, Jaipur etc. You see people carrying loads of books. Hundreds of book shops & photocopy shops filled with books & photocopies to the neck. Third major fillip to your belief that you must read many books comes when you start consulting seniors, peers, booksellers or even the photocopy shops. Suggestions will soon pour for joining Telegram channels, WhatsApp groups, Facebook pages, download Apps, and so on.

You are welcome to the race! The race of senseless accumulation of Books/ Notes/ Pdfs. I am not going into how right or wrong those suggestions to accumulate were; but I certainly know one thing that UPSC does not gauge you or ask in interview ‘how many books you read?’ Did you ever heard of a topper saying that he topped because he read so many books?

In this article, I will not tell you which books you must read, I will tell you the way to select books and how many to read. After reading this, you will be able to decide yourself. I have given a list of popular books & institute’s notes at the end of this article. Note the following –

  1. NCERTs are the heart of civils preparation. There is no substitute of them. 6-12th class Ncerts are important. If you can have access to Old Ncerts, read them too. They were really good. If time permits, you must once go thru NIOS books also. These all are government publications.
  2. Now, download the complete list of all UPSC topics to be prepared. It is given at the end of the article.
  3. This list will also tell you how deep a topic is (High/ Medium/ Shallow). So, you will know which topic needs more preparation as compared to the other one.
  4. This list will also tell you how important a topic is from current affairs point of view (Red/ Green/ Yellow). So, you will know which topic needs more current preparation as compared to the other.

We have built this list, the depth of various topics and their relative importance from current affairs point of view – based on – analysis of past 40-years UPSC papers for prelims and 20-years papers for mains. So, this is not a random list. This has a complete scientific base.

  1. Download the previous Year Qs of both Mains (20 years) and Prelims (40 years). These are given at the end of this article. These will help you mark down important aspects to be prepared for each topic. This may seem tedious to you, but it is better than reading unnecessary lot of books in a purely misdirected way. Noting down important aspects will give you a direction for each topic. Further, you also add possible aspects that come to your mind. By doing this, you will know “what” and “how much” you must prepare for a topic. – This is the most important point of whole strategy.

Once you know what must be read for a topic and how deep it must be read, you will get clear cut direction in civil services exam preparation.

  1. Now comes the role of which book/ notes/ Pdf/ photocopy you must read. You now know ‘what’ is to be read and ‘how much’ is to be read. Pick anything for which you got maximum recommendation. It may be a book, or some institute’s notes, or some pdf document, or anything. Read the topic from there, whatever aspects you could cover from there – cover them. Do not try to make more than 5-points against each aspect (as discussed in detail in my other article on how to make effective notes).
  2. Now, there will be few or many aspects for which you did not find enough material (5-points) in your first reference. For those points, refer some other book or notes and so on.
  3. Do not try to make more than 5-points for one particular aspect because this is NOT REQUIRED. In UPSC, you can write the difficult most questions if you know 5 points against an aspect. Moreover, this is endless. If you Google a topic, you will get 100+ points against each aspect of a topic. Do you really need to cover them? Remember the “Rule of 5.”

Following this way, you shall avoid reading more and more unnecessary books. You will find yourself more directed. You will start enjoying your preparation. You will get enough time to practice answer writing and practicing papers. You do not have to do PhD in a topic. You need to learn the art of using your optimal knowledge to perform better and better in practice papers.

I hope this article must be of some use to you. If you really liked it, please spare a minute to give us 5 stars & short comment on link below –

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Apart from Ncerts, following are popular authors, textbooks and various institutes Notes. You do not have to refer to all of them. The decision on which source is good for you can be made based on following –

  1. You must check them which source or sources are fulfilling your needs of preparing a topic.
  2. You must also see how much time and effort you are putting in and what is the output.

The sequence of these books below does not represent their relative importance.

          History, Art & Culture

·         Bipan Chandra

·         Satish Chandra

·         RS Sharma

·         Spectrum – Rajiv Ahir

·         Lucent

·         Nitin Singhania

·         Norman Lowe

·         crackIAS Notes & Videos



·         GC Leong

·         Majid Husain

·         Khullar

·         Savindra Singh

·         Oxford Atlas

·         Vajiram Notes

·         crackIAS Notes & Videos



·         M Laxmikant

·         DD Basu

·         Kashyap

·         Rajiv Sikri

·         Bare Act

·         crackIAS Notes & Videos



·         Sanjeev Verma

·         Uma Kapila

·         Ramesh Singh

·         Jain & Ohri

·         Sriram IAS eco notes

·         crackIAS Notes & Videos

·         Eco Survey



·         Rajagopalan

·         Shankar IAS

·         crackIAS Notes & Videos


Science & Tech

·         TMH

·         Vision notes

·         The Hindu

·         Sheelwant Singh


          Current Affairs

·         The Hindu

·         Yojana

·         Vision IAS

·         Insight IAS

·         Vajiram

·         crackIAS Notes & Videos

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