As an UPSC aspirant, not only do we have so many syllabus related books to read, but also series of tests, and multiple revisions to do. Many of us after seeing the heading of the article would have thought, who has the time to read all these?

But before you start looking at the curated list, you must know a few things.

  1. What not to do?
  • you need not read them daily
  • you need not complete the entire list of books
  1. Why you should read a few of them?
  • It is just to help you go beyond the syllabus and expand your understanding.
  • It will give you a varied and in depth account about the kind of services you are getting in.
  • It will not only alter your perception but could probably shape you personality too.
  1. When to read?

When you find yourself stuck and saturated with the UPSC preparation and perhaps need a short break,

These readings will help you get refreshed and empowered.

Here are the selected few list of books.

Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century by Shashi Tharoor

About the Book

The book Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century, written by an Indian author Shashi Tharoor, is an emphasis on the Indian diplomacy and its role in the global world. The book gives us an insightful and an interesting coverage of India’s foreign policies and how the policies affect the common man. Shashi Tharoor surveys and examines the major International relationships, offers suggestion about the country’s need for the required platform, along with the country’s responsibilities to maintain its position globally, making his book an informative text to the people of the world.


Bureaucracy gets crazier by M.K.Kaw

About the book

Bureaucracy Gets Crazier: IAS Unmasked offers an insider’s view of how the civil service works. It is a witty and scathing account of a service that is supposed to serve the public.


Challenge and strategy by Rajiv Sikri

About the book

The book is about India’s political relations and affairs with foreign countries. It is a must have for people who are studying international relations and who wish to gain knowledge about the political and economic status of the country.


Memoirs and Musings of an IAS officer by KV Natarajan

About the book

An IAS insiders memoirs and musings presents across a wide canvas of four decades of rich civil service experience at a time when India was shaping itself as a young nation. This book talks about the former Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh KV Natarajan’s stints in the states and at the centre, including his contribution to Sikkim’s transition from a Himalayan Kingdom to an Indian State.


What young India wants by Chetan Bhagat

About the book

What Young India Wants is a compilation of Chetan Bhagat’s essays and speeches on India, its youth, its society, culture and politics. It also contains his ideas of what is needed to take the country forward, and what he thinks the youth of the country want.


I do what I do by Raghuram Rajan

About the Book

I Do What I Do offer a front-row view into the thinking of one of the world’s most respected economists, one whose commitment to India’s progress shines through in the essays and speeches here. It also brings home what every RBI Governor discovers for himself when he sits down at his desk on the 18th floor: the rupee stops here.


Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

About the Book

Train to Pakistan shows what it must have been for the people caught in the middle of the Partition, when a country is divided along communal lines. The Partition in history is a record of a point in time when the country was split apart along religious lines. It is an abstract piece of history for most people. While many books have documented the Partition and the violence surrounding it, most have focused on the social and political causes, and analyzed it as a collection of abstract data. Train to Pakistan is one of the books that focuses on the human drama, the real suffering of the people caught in the middle.


The great Indian Novel by Sashi Tharoor

About the Book

The Great Indian Novel is a satirical novel by Shashi Tharoor. It is a fictional work that takes the story of the Mahabharata, the epic of Hindu history, and recasts and resets it in the context of the Indian Independence Movement and the first three decades post-independence.


You too can become an IPS officer by Dr.Sylendra Babu

About the Book

The book is a guide on how one can successfully attain the post of an IPS officer, Sylendra C. Babu’s You Too Can Become an IPS Officer is a must-have for aspiring candidates. You Too Can Become an IPS Officer is an important guidebook for readers who wish to enter this career. It can be a difficult task to accomplish since the posts are so few and the candidates competing are so many. Nonetheless, the author stresses that with determination, will and hard work, anything can be achieved.


As I see by Kiran Bedi

About the Book

In this book, Kiran Bedi talks about a wide range of issues that have angered, inspired or fascinated her. Through her matter of fact style of writing, she draws her readers into situations that confront them on a daily basis but may tend to ignore. This book is an effort by the author to build greater awareness about numerous social and ethical issues in the hope to invoke, provoke and inspire readers to heightened levels of sensitivity, participation and response.


 KPS Gill: the paramount Cop by Rahul Chandan

About the Book

In 1860, when the civil war was going on in USA, General Ulysses S. Grant under the President Abraham Lincoln, played a major role in preserving the Union, the United States of America. Americans elected Grant as President of America. In 1990s, The Paramount Cop, KPS Gill, played a similar role in preserving the Union of India. He is the Ulysses S. Grant of India. Do we Indians remember him? Gill is epitome of extreme honesty, unwavering courage, unbeatable intelligence and uncompromising patriotism.


The Mavericks of Mussoorie by M.Ramachandran

About the Book

The Mavericks of Mussoorie is an inspiring look at how an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, in his individual capacity, can work to influence and execute policies that make a positive contribution to the country. It is surprisingly honest in its acknowledgement of some of the pitfalls of the system, and sets out clearly what needs to be done to bring out the full potential of the Civil Service. In this candid memoir M. Ramachandran opens up on how and why, despite a distinguished career, the post of Cabinet Secretary eluded him. This book unfolds what transpired and reveals what happens behind the scenes in Indian bureaucracy.


A bend in the river by V.S Naipaul

About the Book

First published in 1979, a Bend in the River is a novel of the politics and society of postcolonial Africa. Salim, a young Indian man, moves to a town on a bend in the river of a recently independent nation. As Salim strives to establish his business, he comes to be closely involved with the fluid and dangerous politics of the newly created state, the remnants of the old regime clashing inevitably with the new.


 Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

About the Book

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote the book ‘The Discovery of India’, during his imprisonment at Ahmednagar fort for participating in the Quit India Movement (1942 – 1946). The book was written during Nehru’s four years of confinement to solitude in prison and is his way of paying homage to his beloved country and its rich culture. The book started from ancient history, Nehru wrote at length of Vedas, Upanishads and textbooks on ancient time and ends during the British raj. The book is a broad view of Indian history, culture and philosophy; the same can also be seen in the television series. The book is considered as one of the finest writing in Indian History. The television series Bharat Ek Khoj which was released in 1988 was based on this book.


The honest always stands alone by C.G.Somiah

About the Book

Speaking straight from the heart, the narrative is well-knit and crisply put together. It goes back to the exciting days of Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership and gives a glimpse into the discussions that took place at the highest political level.


English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee

About the Book

This powerful short novel by Upamanyu Chatterjee the celebrated author of English, August is his most accessible book to date. On a September night in 1949, a house goes up in flames in Batia town, burning, to soot and cinders, everything in it, including a family of six and their dog. The head of the family, Nadeem Dalvi, had been the subordinate mamlatdar of Madhusudan Sen, ICS, the Magistrate of Batia and his trusted supplier of fresh eggs, fish and red meat. When it is discovered that the deaths had not been accidental or caused by fire, Sen Vows to turn vegetarian until justice has been done. In this novella of stunning force and impact, a true original of Indian writing is in brilliant form.


10 Judgments That Changed India by Zia Mody

About the Book

10 Judgements That Changed India, by Zia Mody, is a collection of ten critical judgements passed by the Supreme Court, which transformed democracy and redefined daily life for all Indians.

Through a detailed discussion of the court’s proceedings, Mody attempted to demonstrate the inner workings of the judicial process and the law, which is usually regarded as the domain of lawyers.

After reading this book, readers will not only learn about some of the landmark decisions that have affected India, but also the social and cultural contexts in which they occurred.


Advice and Dissent: My Life in Public Service by Y.V. Reddy

About the Book

As governor of the RBI from 2003 to 2008 Y.V. Reddy presided over a period of high growth, low inflation, a stable rupee and ample foreign exchange reserves – a far cry from the 1991 crisis he lived through and describes in vivid detail, when the country had to mortgage its gold to meet its debt obligations. He is credited with saving the Indian banking system from the sub-prime and liquidity crisis of 2008 that erupted shortly after his term at RBI ended. Leavened with his irrepressible sense of humour, Advice and Dissent is a warm, engaging account of a life that moves easily from his career in the districts as a young IAS officer to the higher echelons of policy making, in a trajectory that follows change in the country itself.


Battles Half Won: India’s Improbable Democracy by Ashutosh Varshney

About the Book

This lively collection of essays by Ashutosh Varshney analyzes the deepening of Indian democracy since 1947 and the challenges this has created. It examines concerns ranging from federalism and Hindu nationalism to caste conflict and civil society, the north-south economic divide and politics of economic reforms. Accompanied by a substantial overview tracing the forging and consolidation of India’s improbable democracy, the book, full of original insights, portrays the successes and failures of our experience in a new comparative perspective, enriching our understanding of the idea of democracy.


How India Sees the World: From Kautilya to Modi: Kautilya to the 21st Century written by Shyam Saran

About the Book

Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has had a ringside view of the most critical events in Indian foreign policy in the new millennium. In this magisterial book,Part memoir and part thesis on India’s international relations since Independence, Saran discerns the threads that tie together his experiences as a diplomat and takes us behind the closed doors of the world of diplomacy. This book also takes the reader behind the closed doors of the most nail-biting negotiations and top-level interactions- from Barack Obama popping by a tense developing country strategy meeting at the Copenhagen climate change summit to the private celebratory dinner thrown by then US President George W. Bush for then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the success of the nuclear deal.


Rebooting India: Realizing a Billion Aspirations by Nandan Nilekani

About the Book

India is sitting on a demographic dividend, expected to become the world’s youngest country by 2020, with 64 per cent of its population, roughly 800 million people, of working age. But our country cannot become a global powerhouse unless we resolve the contradictions and bridge the gaps that distort our society. According to Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah, the only way to do this is by using technology to radically reimagine government itself. Rebooting India identifies a dozen initiatives where a series of citizen-friendly, high-tech public institutions can deliver low-cost solutions to India’s grand challenges. Based on the learnings from building Aadhaar, the proposed initiatives would save the government a minimum of Rs 1, 00, 000 crore annually, about 1 per cent of India’s GDP. These visionary, cutting-edge ideas, the authors hope, will enable each one of India’s 1.2 billion citizens to realize their aspirations.


The Wonder That Was India by A.L. Basham

About the Book

This book, The Wonder that was India, was written in 1958 by a British historian A. L. Basham. It traces the history of India from the ancient times to just before the arrival of the Muslim invaders.

Also gives an insight into modern Indian society and culture, how it became a confluence of different influences from many a quarter throughout the many stages of its history.


Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by James A. Robinson Daron Acemoglu.

About the Book

Contrary to popular belief, in the authors’ opinion, the factors that influence the economic growth of nations is not hard to understand. Geography, culture and civil policies do not influence this growth. Politics and institutions do. The authors provide proof that the current economic growth of China cannot continue, and that sometimes wanting to improve things itself lends way to a critical fall. The book discusses this and more, paving the way for understanding of international growth and economic welfare as a whole.


Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre

About the Book

There comes a moment in every nation’s existence when incidents irrevocably alter its character and perception. The 1947 Partition of India is one such event.This book takes a critical look at the Indian Independence Movement, Partition, and creation of Pakistan, Lord Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi.

Author duo Dominique Lappierre and Larry Collins revisit the event that altered the history of India and try to understand the chief protagonists (Gandhi, Jinnah, Mountbatten, Nehru) of this event in a beautiful and soul-stirring narrative. The best part is it humanises each event while maintaining a neutral ground.


Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

About the Book

Freakanomics is a collection of “economic” articles that delves into unusual and diverse subject, traditionally not considered by economists. As a matter of fact, many readers argue that the book is not really about “economics” but how statistical analysis can solve a various range of subjects.

The book discusses the inner workings of a crack gang, secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, truth about real-estate agents, etc. The stories present that economics is, at root, the study of incentives.


The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen

About the Book

The Argumentative Indian is written by Nobel Prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen. It is a collection of essays, categorised under four sections: i) Voice and Heterodoxy, ii) Culture and Communication, iii) Politics and Protest, and iv) Reason and Identity.Sen tries to interpret India through ‘internal separatism and global isolation’. “India is often portrayed as a mishmash of separate religions, languages, ethnicities, and castes which are only loosely held together by the legacy of European colonialism. Sen rejects that claim completely and spends much of the book reviewing the history of two major Indian leaders – Ashoka and Akbar – as examples of India’s pre-colonial embrace of pluralism and multiculturalism. Sen is equally critical of those who try to promote a sense of Indian national identity by rejecting any economic, social, or intellectual engagement with the West. In fact, he keenly observes that most anti-Western thought in India is, in fact, rooted in European intellectual circles,” states a Goodreads member, David.


India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha

About the Book

“None of our academic books mention what happened after India got its independence, either. But ironically that is the most crucial period of our country which tests our integrity, intelligence, power, responsibility and many more constitutional lessons to come. And this epic volume offers mountainous account of our pains (partition, Riots, assassinations of leaders), conflicts (never ending Kashmir problem, Nagaland ‘land issues’, trouble with tribal), humiliations (war with China), challenges (Constitution, new political parties, foreign policies, plans) and glories (inclusion of princely states, first general elections, wars with Pakistan etc,) of our country,” says a Goodreads member, Kali Srikanth, while describing the book.


Walking with lions by K.Natwar Singh

About the Book

Walking With Lions: Tales From a Diplomatic Past is a collection of 50 articles that appeared in Mail Today, recalling memorable incidents in the long diplomatic career of K. Natwar Singh.

The book has an interesting collection of stories involving politicians, diplomats, leaders and some celebrities from the art and entertainment industry. These articles were published in Mail Today between 2011 and 2012.


“Today a READER, tomorrow a LEADER.” – Margaret Fuller


Published by
Officers IAS Academy – Best IAS Academy in Chennai.

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