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Best Books to Study Geography for IAS Mains & Prelims – Expert Opinion

Topic: Trying to make out a list of best books to study Geography for UPSC or IAS mains and PT.

Geography has been one of my subsidiary subjects when I was pursuing my graduation during the 2008-11 session at Nalanda College, Magadh University. It’s certainly diverse and a wide horizon which hides many things beneath and lets us have a view of so many things above. There are many of my friends who have been preparing for UPSC; some of them have become IAS and some of them have just started and some of them have been preparing for some time now. However, among all, one thing is certainly common – the choice-making of the books for preparations. Choosing books for IAS preparations is not an easy job. An aspirant has to weigh the measures, check the usefulness and talk to the experts and especially the ones who have already cracked the exam. Nonetheless, many of my Geography friends and also the friends of my younger brother, often discuss the bookish things with me knowing my credentials – a book guy. Today, I will present to you what they talk to me and how do they approach for good books of Geography for UPSC Mains and GS preparations.

A basic plan for choosing the best geography books for IAS preparation:

1. Is the content useful and a level above?
2. Who is the author? What are his or her credentials?
3. Do the aspirants find it useful? Find the guys who have read it. Ask them.
4. What’s my initial feedback after reading a few pages? What’s my response after reading two chapters?
5. Does it have something beyond the concept? Does it contain an extra layer of cheesy content?
6. Do the book forums online and offline approve of this book?
7. You have your book now!

Rajeev, one of the most brilliant students of Nalanda College and the batch topper, has started his UPSC preparations with Geography as the elective subject for mains. Whenever I meet him, he is surrounded by books of Geography – Indian Geography, World Geography, Economic Geography and so many others. This Sunday (the past one), I talked to him about the most useful books that he has found till the date for UPSC preparations based on the syllabus and expert advice. He has told me about 6 books that he was currently observing and using for his IAS ambition mainly beside many other books.

1. Indian and World Geography by Majid Husain: First published in 2011, the book has an ever-increasing popularity and it does find its place in almost every UPSC aspirant’s book corner. Majid Husain’s book as an instant-info mode activated and it allows the readers to gain the information they are looking for. Supported with maps and diagrams, the book contains information (primary and important) about the economic and physical aspects of geography related to India and the world. This book can be very useful for UPSC aspirants because it covers the syllabus of Geography and is revised over time to meet the expectations. You can get a copy of this book from Amazon online story by clicking the link below (opens in a new tab):

Buy the book by M Husain – click here

2. Geography Through Maps by K. Siddhartha: UPDATED – this is not a good book for your UPSC goals! Ignore this book because of the following reasons: 

Very bad print quality
Black and white maps
Data and records are too old to be followed or used
The content of the book is not so worthy to be used by serious UPSC aspirants

These are the factors that I have found after a thorough study of the book and I WILL NOT SUGGEST ANYONE BUY THIS BOOK! Ignore it! You can rather buy a very good atlas and a quality book on Indian Geography. Kitab Mahal has done a very dirty job at printing to convert this book into a further mess! Ignore other books published by them!

Rajeev was so excited about introducing me to this book! First published in 2001, the book has been through various updates and revisions and the latest edition was published by Kitab Mahal in 2017. The book aims at enabling the students about geographical facts (the world) by using maps – economic factors, physical factors, resources and much other information can easily be perused by the maps given in this book. Decorated with colourful introductory maps at the beginning of the book, the book is a single answer to the questions asked about Indian geographical features in the GS. This book, Rajeev told, can be used for Mains (IAS) as well as it contains the basic data and maps which can be used in the answers. Much appreciated by the experts and the critics, the book is liked by the UPSC aspirants who elect Geography for Mains as well as those who have to opt for other subjects as it is very useful for the prelims. The best think about this book is that it also comes in a Hindi edition for Hindi medium students.

Buy K. Siddhartha’s book – click here
Buy the Hindi Edition – Click here

3. World Geography by Pounds and Taylor: This book is informative, succinct and decorated with colourful maps, photographs and tables. Even I do own a copy of this amazing book that I used extensively during my graduation. For all those aspirants who want a quick sneak-pick into the world of World Geography, this book published by South-Western Publishing Co. can be very handy as it contains all the basic information. Categorised as The Developed World and The Developing World, the chapters will be very useful for the introductory formation of the basic idea. You can look for this book offline because it’s not available online.

4. Introducing Physical Geography by Alan Strahler: If you don’t know Strahler, you must know now. He is a professor, Earth & Environment Dept. Boston University. His books on Physical Geography have always been a top demand by the students of Geography as well as the aspirants of UPSC. Deeply researched and visually sufficient content is the key to his popularity among the students. The latest edition of this book has been published in 2016 and it covers the fundamentals as well as the broad aspects of Physical Geography which will be an essential part of the preparations – either for Mains or for the PT. Before you think of getting any other book, do take a look at this book or ask one of your friends who might be knowing about this one. You won’t be surprised if you find yourself getting a copy! You can buy this book from Amazon by opening the link below:

Buy Strohler’s Introducing Physical Geography: Click Here

5. Oxford Student Atlas for Competitive Exams: This is certainly the battery for your preparations. You do need a high-quality atlas of the world to compensate your theory studies. Oxford is a renowned publisher when it comes to the publications for the study materials and this is one of the finest examples of their vision and craft. You need to have this atlas ready on your study table whenever you need it. Get a copy of this visually appealing atlas right now from Amazon. Get it from the link below:

Buy the Oxford Atlas – click here

6. A Bundle of NCERT Books of Geography: Rajeev also showed this collection to me which contained almost all the books of Geography, class 6 to 12, published by NCERT. He had the print versions though but these books can easily be downloaded free of cost from the NCERT website online. These books are helpful for the GS as well as for the basic understanding of Geography before you start studying the higher level books for your preparations.

So, this was Rajeev’s strategy’s major armours for UPSC mains. He has many other books such as A History of Geographical Thoughts, Evolution of Geographical Ideas, Indian Geography, Economic Geography and so on. His perfect-five are these books.

What do you do? How do you rate these books? Have you ever studied these books? What other books should Rajeev include in his go-to choice of books? All these ideas are most welcome in the comment section. I wish you a very good time with your UPSC preparations!

Alok Mishra

First and foremost a poet, Alok Mishra is an author next. Apart from these credentials, he is founder & Editor-in-Chief of Ashvamegh, an international literary magazine and also the founder of BookBoys PR, a company which helps writers brand themselves and promote their books. On this blog, Alok mostly writes about literary topics which are helpful for literature students and their teachers. He also shares his poems; personal thoughts and book reviews.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Such a nice list to prepare yourself for Geogprahy examination in mains as well as Geo in general. UPSC is all about continuous effort. And to do that we need lots of books and it is also necessary which book is to be avoided. Such a nice article.

  2. Very helpful article sir! I am an aspirant of IAS and I have also taken Geography as my optional paper. This article has helped me decide the first set of books for my mains paper.

  3. Very good article. Got the link from Quora and I am thankful to the person who shared it. Geography books mentioned here are really helpful because I have studied some of them. I will be buying rest of the books asap.

  4. Very good articles on your website. This one helped me a lot. Can u also get the books mentioned here offline? I need books from the shop.

  5. A very good list! I really like K. Siddhartha’s books for Geography and I have been studying a few of them since my graduation years! Geography Through Maps is certainly popular and so is the Physical Geography. Though I also have many others to support my studies for mains, I do agree that these books are really wonderful. Savinder Singh’s books are also very good.

  6. very good article. I am also preparing for Geography in UPSC mains. I bought some of the books from the list and those are awesome…

  7. Very helpful article by you sir. thank you so much. I also have the books on Economic Geography and one of them is by K. Siddhartha. That is very helpful too. Please tell me something about this Pounds and Taylour book. Where can I get that?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Swati. And you made a good choice. K. Siddhartha’s Economic Geography is also a very good title. Pounds and Taylor is rather an old but very informative edition. The book is not available online though. You can try some international websites for old books and you might be lucky enough someday!

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