So here is an updated list of books and sources for starting your General Studies preparation for IAS UPSC Civil Services Examination preliminary stage.
I have been asked this question again and again and bowing to popular demand i am sharing the list of books and sources from where one can prepare general studies from UPSC prelims point of view.The list by no means is comprehensive but a starting point to get you on track to clear UPSC prelims.
GS is a vast ocean ,especially for first timers as they have time constraint plus a very vague idea about what to study and from where to study. First and foremost ,one has to prepare the core areas and later on one can try to cover some of the fringe areas as well. General Studies is not about preparing everything under the sun (though it comes close to it) and there has to be a method to the GS preparation madness.
1.Current Affairs : Make daily notes from The Hindu or read current affairs updates from any monthly magazine (I was a subscriber of Competition Wizard but hardly read anything other than toppers interviews) ; Read the diary of events (supplied with The Hindu in first week of January that covers all happenings of previous year) and mark all important happenings both national & international. Also one can follow Vision IAS monthly news magazines which are available in most bookshops in Delhi. But no substitute to making your own notes from newspapers.
Current affairs, needless to say, is worth at least 40-45 marks in GS, so ignore it at your own peril.(kindly refer my article on current affairs for more details at www.civilservicessynopsis.in)
2.History : Modern Indian History is important from both prelims and mains point of view.The best source for me was NCERT social studies books of classes 8 and 9(Contemporary India is the name of the book). Just go through the history portions and make notes, it will hardly take much time and will give you a clear idea of the chronology of events. One can expect 10-12 questions from modern indian history (freedom struggle) but be ready for surprises.
I know many people would not be satisfied with only the NCERT books ,so for those hard to please souls Spectrum's Modern Indian History booklet will be a good book to read. Even after this if one is not content then read Bipin Chandra as well ;)
For ancient and medieval India (fringe areas of GS) try to get hold of Vajiram classnotes or special supplements of Competition Wizard or any such magazine. From that also focus only on books and authors (eg.Mrichkatikam was written by Shudraka and Amuktamalyada was written by Krishnadeva Raya,who was the most famous King of Vijaynagar empire,which was founded by Harihara and Bukka and so on), Indus Valley sites and where particular things were found,important kingdoms and their rulers etc. I will be discussing it in more detail in a later post on Ancient & Medieval India which you can find at www.civilservicessynopsis.in.
3.Geography : Mostly atlas/location based questions are asked. One should not miss out on those. Read Ensemble's Geography and also get a good idea of India and world map.Location of countries,important rivers,which countries are cut by tropic of cancer/capricorn and equator etc should be seen on a regular basis from Atlas. One should get either Oxford Atlas or Orient Longman Atlas and make it a habit to locate all places that you read about anywhere and which you cannot immediately locate in your mind as to where the place is on Atlas. For example, if you are reading a news article that Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free by WHO and if you do not know where Sierra Leone is in Africa and which are its neighbouring countries, then you should look it up on Atlas. Gradually, you will get better acquainted with places and their locations and it will come very handy in Civil Services Examination.
Read India and its states portion from Manorama Year Book and make notes of the salient features of all states and important rivers flowing through them, historical sites etc.
Note down all important national parks and their locations(which state) as it is asked often in matching type questions and also wetlands.
4.General Science : Focus more on biology and environment part as that is asked the most these days. One can follow Vajiram's class notes or special supplement of Competition Wizard.In addition one can also refer books- What,Why and How (3 very thin books) by Publication Division or any other source you are comfortable with. One can also look up important inventions and discoveries in Manorama Year Book. Plus one can also refer xerox of Shankar's Environment which is available in bookshops in Rajender Nagar (Delhi).
5.Polity : Generally conceptual questions are asked and one also needs to know important articles and amendments. For instance Article-143 is concerned with President of India seeking Supreme Court's opinion on any important issue and 73rd Amendment Act is concerned with Panchayati Raj Institutions. The Polity book by Laxmikant which is readily available online and bookshops is one of the best books for preparing Polity as the information is presented in easy to read manner and in point-wise format. There is no need to follow any other book for this section.
6.Paper II of CSAT : This paper should not require any extra preparation as such, as it is now a qualifying paper but one should not take it lightly. The best preparation is to go through previous years UPSC question papers and attempt these to see which areas you are finding difficulty. Attempting previous years IAS UPSC question papers will give you a good idea about the level and kind of questions asked in GS Paper II in Prelims and one can then decide how much time and effort needs to be put into individual sections. One good book for preparing this section is by Tata McGraw Hill for General Studies Paper II. This paper requires practice and some more practice, as simple as that.
I look forward to your queries and feedback which you can post in comments,but please make sure you are posting your queries in my blog (www.civilservicessynopsis.in)and not at some other site which might have copied my content.
All the very best !!!