Kartic Godavarthy

Cogito, Ergo Sum

Anthropology Booklist for Self-Study

If you are preparing for Anthropology optional by yourself and without the guidance from any professional coach, you need a reliable list of books that will help you prepare for the Mains Examination as your optional is worth a whooping 500 marks.

  1. This booklist includes 11 books (Aside from resources from the Govt. of India).
  2. Please do not get overwhelmed! You do not need to study every one of them from cover to cover. Remember it is important to know what NOT to read as well. Please study the relevant chapters/topics in each book as per the latest UPSC syllabus.
  3. This detailed booklist was made for aspirants who would like to study by themselves, and for various reasons cannot enroll in any coaching or training.
  4. If you know other aspirants who may find this useful, please share the link to this post with them.
  5. This is only an advisory pointing you in the right direction, and not necessarily a guarantee, as this examination is dynamic and requires hard work, multiple revisions, and conceptual clarity. The scope of the topics changes every year, and there is a degree of unpredictability in every optional paper.
  6. Please also note that past observations and experiences are not reliable indicators of the future in a dynamic competitive examination such as the UPSC.

The Book List

  1. Ember, Ember and Peregrene’s “Anthropology”
    • (Useful as an introduction to the subject and to develop interest in the subject.)
      • Meaning, scope, development, branches of Anthropology
      • Culture, language and communication
      • Anthropological research (only as an introduction)
    • My Note: If you already have a book on “Cultural Anthropology” that has an introduction to the subject of Anthropology, such as Ember and Ember’s “Cultural Anthropology”, this book may not be needed.
  2. Stanford’s ”Biological Anthropology”
    • Can be your Primary Reference for Physical Anthropology Topics including:
      • Human Evolution and emergence of Man
      • Primates
      • Human Genetics
      • Race and racism
      • Epidemiological Anthropology
      • Concept of human growth and development
      • Relevance of menarche, menopause and other bio-events to fertility
      • Applications of Anthropology
    • My Note: This is one of the few books that explains Physical/Biological Anthropology from a cultural and anthropological perspective (as it should be learnt) rather than a biology/zoology perspective.
  3. D K Bhattacharya’s “Prehistoric Archaeology”
    • Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology
    • My Note: For a clear understanding of methods used in Archaeology, and tools from each period.
  4. Ember and Ember’s “Cultural Anthropology”
    • Useful reference for more details and clarity in:
      • Society
      • Marriage
      • Family
      • Kinship
      • Economic Organization
      • Religion
    • My Note: This is not a compulsory reading if you have another resource or already bought Ember, Ember and Peregrene’s “Anthropology”. However, this book is preferable as it provides more nuanced details for major concepts in socio-cultural anthropology.
  5. Veena Tucker’s “Research Methods in Social Sciences”
    • Research methods in anthropology
    • My Note: Most questions from this chapter so far have been more or less straightforward. This book is not compulsory, but you can use this for an overview, especially if you are weak in, or new to Social Sciences/Qualitative Research methodology. This book outlines merits and demerits of most of the methods mentioned in the syllabus.
  6. Upadhyay and Pandey’s “History of Anthropological Thought”
    • Affordable book on Anthropological theories (except Post Modernism)
    • Contributions of Anthropologists
    • My Note: This book is written in a verbose, technical and traditional academic language than others, so you can use this as a reference to write answers more technically. You will have to make your own shorter notes as the book is very detailed and not all information is necessary for your answers.
  7. D K Bhattacharya’s “An Outline of Indian Prehistory”
    • Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilization (PAPER II)
    • My Note: This book is not compulsory if you have a strong grasp of Ancient Indian History from your preparation for GS. But, remember to make sure you focus more on nature of culture and tool technologies in anthropology papers if you are not using this book as a reference for this chapter.
  8. Nadeem Hasnain’s “Tribal India”
    • (PAPER II) Tribal situation in India
    • (PAPER II) Problems of the tribal Communities, etc.
  9. Nadeem Hasnain’s “Indian Anthropology”
    • PAPER II Topics:
      • Caste
      • Ethnicity
      • Village Studies
  10. LP Vidyarthi and Binay Kumar Rai’s “Tribal Culture of India”
    • Emergence and growth of anthropology in India
    • History, ethnographic profiles and sociopolitical conditions of tribes in India
  11. India Yearbook of the Latest Year
    • My Note: Refer this book for Welfare and Development programs for Minorities and Tribes, and make brief up-to-date notes while you study each chapter of Paper II. Obviously, this is also a very useful resource for your GS papers. 
  12. Xaxa Committee’s Report on Tribal Communities of India [Published by Govt. of India]
    • Compulsory reading for PAPER II
      • Problems of the tribal Communities
      • Developmental projects and their impact on tribal Displacement and problems of Rehabilitation, etc.
      • Important case studies
      • Democratic institutions and constitutional safeguards and their working
      • Working of the provisions of PESA, Forest Rights Act, Fifth and the Sixth Schedules of the Constitution of India etc.
  13. Few imporant websites

Here is a video on some tips for self-study that you may find useful.

6 responses to “Anthropology Booklist for Self-Study”

  1. Thank u so much sir

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arunima chatterjee Avatar
    Arunima chatterjee

    Sir how to contact you regarding learning anthropology from you as an optional?


  3. This is really helpful! As someone who prefers reading from books, really thankful someone shared an approach to cover UPSC Anthropology syllabus using a book based approach.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


i think, therefore i am.

Cogito, ergo sum is a Latin philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am”, probably the one thing that defines our specie.

%d bloggers like this: