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Sociology Books for IAS

Sociology is unlike Public Administration in the sense it needs a holistic understanding and is not to be read linearly which is true of Pub Ad  to some extent. The same holds true for Sociology books. They are not to be read in a sequence, do not cover entire topics entirely but are to be read nevertheless. Actually Sociology books are such that you need to scourge for content from many books to frame the right perspective for a given topic.

Sociology Paper 1 Books

Sociology- Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos and Heald

The most definitive and must read book for Paper 1. In fact to understand what’s Sociology is all about read Haralambos. This book touches upon all aspects of paper 1 be that family, marriage, kinship, stratification, power, economic system etc. In the old Prelims syllabus nearly 20-25 questions were asked from this book alone. Even in mains this book is indispensable. The biggest plus point about Sociology Themes and Perspectives is its language. Simple, easy to understand, comprehensive. It also contains relevant case studies of different social systems and phenomena that should be quoted in the IAS mains to score well.

Sociology by T.B Bottomore

One of the Sociology classics, Bottomore explains the evolution of Sociology in this short book and delves into other areas of Sociology. Upendra Gour, the renowned coach for Sociology  in Delhi recommends to read the first eighty pages of this book. Although not a must read book for sociology it will surely expand your horizons.

Sociological Thought by Abraham and Morgan

As you might be aware Sociology paper 1 is usually more scoring than Paper 2 as the paper 1 syllabus is quite manageable compared to the latter. Apart from this the section on Sociological Thinkers is most important from Mains point of view. Two 60 mark questions are almost always asked from this unit and if you master it you’re on your way to some pretty good marks in the first paper.

That’s why I recommend Sociological Thought which covers all the thinkers mentioned in this unit like Karl Marx, Max Weber, Durkheim, and RK Merton. It even covers other thinkers like Vilfredo Pareto, Auguste Comte, and Herbert Spencer so you can tackle some sections of the first and second unit as well. Sociological Thought is a must read for paper 1.

Methodology and Techniques of Social Research by Jaspal Singh

Unit 3 of Sociology syllabus is about Research Methods and Analysis. Many students tend to skip this section altogether in their preparation as they don’t consider it that important from the Mains viewpoint. But given UPSC’s fickle nature they could ask more than one question from this unit. To plug this hole you should read Methodology and Techniques by Jaspal Singh.

Methodology and Techniques explains the basics and details of various research methodologies used by social researchers as well as techniques of data collection and sampling methods. A good book to tackle the unit 3 syllabus.

How to cover the other units of Paper 1?

The topics like Systems of Kinship, Religion and Society, Works and Economic Life don’t require dedicated book rather they they are based on the works of social thinkers. So first understand their work in depth and then combine this understanding with topics and social studies from Haralambos  to frame your answers. Also prepare your own clippings of social surveys if you come across them in magazines or The Hindu to make your answers stand out.

Sociology Paper 2 Books

For paper 2 i will recommend just a few books not because they cover the entire syllabus but because no amount of books will cover the syllabus in its entirety.

Caste in Modern India and other essays by M.N Srinivas

The most striking reality of India is not class but caste and M.N Srinivas, one of the foremost Indian Sociologists, explains the caste system from the structural-functionalist perspective in a language that is very easy to comprehend. The book it self is quite short and can be read in just 3 days from start to finish. Caste in Modern India also contains social research conducted among the Coorgs by Srinivas and is very relevant for answering questions in Paper 2.

Recommended reading: Caste and its 20th Century Avatar by M.N Srinivas to understand how the caste structure and equations has changed over the years.

Social Change in Modern India by M.N Srinivas

Social change is another important focus of the Sociology syllabus. After all no society, however rigid, is completely statics and change in different degrees modifies it in myriad ways. To understand the changes taking place in Indian society right from the British period M.N Srivivas has written this very short and readable book. Through this book Srinivas refutes Louis Dumont’s theory of a static and unchanging India. A recommended book for Sociology mains paper.

Social Stratification by Dipankar Gupta

Dipankar Gupta is an eminent Sociologist who teaches at JNU, New Delhi. Although Social Stratification wasn’t very useful for the old syllabus prior to 2008, it’s one of the most useful and important books for Paper 2 revised syllabus. This book edited by Gupta contains important case studies of various social thinkers that are of direct relevance to Paper 2. As you might know case studies have to be quoted in the second paper to score well. In other words theory needs to be backed with figures and facts in sociology. Mere fluff doesn’t work.

From Louis Dumont to Andre Beteille, Marxist viewpoint to Functionalist, Social Stratification covers all. A must read.


I can go on about sociology books but the fact is the above books are enough to cover the meat of the syllabus. For rest of the syllabus instead of referring individual books go through the IGNOU notes that covers the remaining paper 2 syllabus adequately.

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