Which books should I read?
I assume that you are acquainted with the exam.
If you are not you can read this website. A better thing you can
do is get hold of IAS Planner, a book published by
Chronicle Books, and which will clarify all your questions. This
is a very helpful book with loads and loads of statistics,
although a little outdated. I will highly recommend this book for
all those who seriously consider taking the exam, but are clueless
about all details.
This is a big exam, perhaps the biggest competitive exam in India.
Most agree that nowhere else do you have to read as much. Thus, you
would have to cover much area, read many books. Since, time is always
at a premium, you would prefer to read those books which will directly
help you in your preparation.
The difficult part about answering this very innocuous question is
that reading books will never harm you, no matter what you read. So,
it is difficult to say- don't read this book. Reading anything is
better than reading nothing, of course. And in the GS paper you never
know what you are asked- if you are a very well read person, chances
are more that you have come across the answer. Given this, should I
launch into an extensive and blind perusal of books? Should I read
anything and everything that I can lay my hands on? Well, that would
be a foolish venture.
A well read person is one who has cultivated
the habit of reading books over the years. That is not something that you
can become over one year, just like that. As you start preparing for the
Civils, you are already well read or you are not. But your selection to the
next stage would depend upon what you do next- not what you did before you
started preparation, but after. Your selection would depend upon how much
you have covered, and how thoroughly. Selective and intensive reading,
rather than extensive reading is the mantra. Reading one good book ten times
is better than reading ten books one time, because in the latter case you
won't remember a thing. The struggle is to find the right books, so that you
can utilize your precious time reading them, rather than wasting your time
in the useless venture of reading books that would make no difference to
The funda of reading books or other material is
simple: if it is not in the syllabus, do not read them. Don't even take
a glance at it. However, just keeping an eye on the syllabus won't do. Many
a times the syllabus is very broad and vague, for example the GS syllabus at
the Prelims level, and even at the Mains level. The syllabus as such give
you no idea as to what kind of questions you would be actually
asked- the most important thing. Therefore it is mandatory to keep an eye on
the type of questions that is to be expected. Previous years' question
papers, and other sample papers are a must.