The UPSC offers 48 optional subjects to choose from. Further, geography happens to be one of the student favorites among the lot. For Geography optional, students should be thorough with the UPSC Optional Geography Syllabus as well as the book list. So in this article, we will be discussing the syllabus and UPSC Geography optional books for Mains. So, let’s look into the relevant details. The purpose of going through the Geography optional book list and Geography books for IAS exam is to know what exactly to read and not waste time on irrelevant topics. So, let’s get started!



How to write Geography Optional answers in UPSC Mains?

Geography Optional answer writing

To gain high marks, you have to ensure that your answer is not a general answer. Rather, you have to provide an in-depth analysis of the question and answer in a holistic manner. Also, you need to provide maps and examples in most topics so that your answer is easy to understand and it gives the examiner the idea that you are well-versed in the subject. So, you have to read the best UPSC Geography optional books. Also, supplement your answer with statistics and govt. data and surveys to provide a clear picture of what you want to convey through your answer.

The best Geography books for IAS exam will help clear your concepts and aid you to score high. So, it is imperative that you prepare a decent Geography optional book list with the help of coaching/teachers or friends to kick off the preparation. Also, get a good grasp of the India and world map so you remember all the important places in and around the world. We have also provided a Geography optional book list at the end of this article for your perusal.

Geography Paper I Syllabus 

Let us look at the Geography Optional syllabus before we move on to UPSC Geography optional books.

Section A: Physical Geography


  1. Earth’s crust – Origin and evolution;
  2. Physical conditions of the earth s interior;
  3. Continental drift;
  4. Plate tectonics – endogenetic and exogenetic forces.
  5. Channel morphology;
  6. Mountain building;
  7. Basics of geomagnetism;
  8. Factors affecting landform development; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Slope development;
  9. Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development; 
  10. Isostasy;
  11. Erosional surfaces;
  12. Geosynclines Denudation chronology;
  13. Applied Geomorphology and vulcanicity:
  14. Geohydrology, Ecology, Geology, Environment.


  1. Heat budget of Earth; Atmospheric stability and instability.
  2. Planetary and local winds; Air masses and frontogenesis: Monsoons and jet streams; Air masses and frontogenesis, Temperate and tropical cyclones; Weather and Climate; Atmospheric circulation; Koppen classification, World climates;
  3. World temperature and pressure belts;
  4. Hydrological cycle;
  5. Types and distribution of precipitation;
  6. Global climatic change;
  7. Applied climatology, and Urban climate. Read about climatology in the best Geography Book for UPSC from the booklist given below.


  1. Ocean temperature and salinity;
  2. Marine resources: biotic, mineral and energy resources;
  3. Coral reefs, Waves, currents, and tides; Bottom topography of the Atlantic,
  4. Indian and Pacific Oceans;
  5. Heat and salt budgets, ocean deposits; coral bleaching; changes in sea-level; marine pollution.


  1. Soil profile; Soil erosion, Genesis of soils;
  2. Deforestation and conservation measures; Social forestry; Wildlife; Classification and distribution of soils; agro-forestry;
  3. Factors affecting world distribution of plants and animals;
  4. Major gene pool centres;
  5. Degradation and conservation.

Environmental Geography

  1. Ecological changes and imbalances;
  2. Management and conservation of Ecosystem;
  3. Human adaptions; How man affects ecology and environment;
  4. Environmental degradation and ways of management, and conservation;
  5. Basics of ecology; Environmental policies; Sustainable development;
  6. Environmental hazards and Remedies; Environmental education and laws

Section B: Human Geography

Perspectives in Human Geography

  1. Dichotomy and dualism;
  2. Environmentalism;
  3. Quantitative revolution and locational analysis; regional synthesis;
  4. Areal differentiation; radical, behavioral, human, and welfare approaches; religions and secularisation;
  5. Human development index;
  6. Languages;
  7. Cultural spots of the world.

Economic Geography

  1. Distribution of world resources ; Energy crisis; the limits to growth;
  2. World agriculture: Inputs and productivity
  3. Economic development at global level: Problems and solutions
  4. Food and nutrition issues; famine: causes, effects, and remedies;
  5. Food security;
  6. World industries; world trade

Population and Settlement Geography

  1. Migration: Causes and consequences – What is over-under-and optimum population?;
  2. Growth and distribution of world population;
  3. Population theories, world population problems, and policies, demographic attributes; Social well-being and quality of life;
  4. Read about how population is a social capital.
  5. Rural settlements – Types;
  6. Hierarchy of urban settlements; Urban morphology: Concepts of primate city and rank-size rule;
  7. Environmental issues in rural settlements;
  8. Functional classification of towns; Urban influence; Rural-urban gap; Satellite towns; Problems and sustainable remedies of urbanization

Regional Planning

  1. What is a region; Types and methods of regionalisation;
  2. Growth centres and poles;
  3. Regional imbalances – development strategies; environmental issues in regional planning; Planning development in a sustainable way.

Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography

  1. Read about Systems analysis in Human geography; Malthusian, Marxian, and demographic transition models; in the Best Geography Book for UPSC.
  2. Central Place theories of Christaller and Losch; Perroux and Boudeville; Von Thunen s model of agricultural location;
  3. Ostov’s model of stages of growth;
  4. Weber’s model of industrial location;
  5. Heartland and Rimland theories; Laws of international boundaries and frontiers.

Geography Paper II Syllabus

Section A: Physical Setting

  1. Space relationship of India and neighboring countries;
  2. Physiographic regions; Relief, Structure;
  3. Tropical cyclones, and western disturbances; Floods and droughts; Climatic regions; Natural vegetation; Types of soil types and areas where they are found;
  4. Drainage system and watersheds; All about Indian monsoons and rainfall patterns

Resources – An Important topic in Best Geography Book for UPSC

  1. Forest and wildlife resources and their conservation;
  2. Energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources;
  3. Energy crisis;
  4. Land, surface, and groundwater


Agriculture forms a major portion of Geography optional syllabus
  1. Infrastructure: irrigation, seeds, fertilizers, power;
  2. Institutional factors: landholdings, land tenure, and land reforms;
  3. White revolution; Livestock; aquaculture; sericulture, apiculture, and poultry; agricultural regionalization; agro-climatic zones; agro-ecological regions.
  4. Cropping pattern, crop combination, agricultural productivity, land capability, agricultural intensity;
  5. Agro and social-forestry; Green revolution and its socio-economic and ecological implications;
  6. Importance of dry farming;

You will find ample information about these topics in the Best Geography Books for UPSC.


  1. Industries of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilizer, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage, and agro-based industries; Also, read about the growth of these industries.
  2. New industrial policies; Multinationals and liberalization; Special Economic Zones; Tourism including eco-tourism.
  3. Industrial houses including PSUs; Industrial regionalization;

Transport, Communication and Trade

  1. Road, railway, waterway, airway, and pipeline networks and their complementary roles in regional development;
  2. Export processing zones; Progress in communication and information technology and their impacts on economy and society; Indian space programme.
  3. Growing importance of ports on national and foreign trade;
  4. Trade balance; Trade Policy.

Section B: Cultural Setting

  1. Indian Society from a historical perspective; Racial, linguistic and ethnic diversities; religious minorities; major tribes, tribal areas – Problems and solutions; cultural regions;
  2. Growth, distribution, and population density;
  3. Demographic attributes: work-force, sex-ratio, literacy rate, age structure, dependency ratio, longevity; migration (all levels) and associated problems; Population problems and policies; Health indicators – these form a major part of the Best Geography Book for UPSC.


  1. Rural settlements – Types, patterns, and morphology;
  2. Urban developments; Morphology of Indian cities;
  3. Indian cities: Functional classification; Conurbations and metropolitan regions; urban sprawl;
  4. Slums and related problems; town planning;
  5. Problems of urbanization and Way Forwards.

Regional Development and Planning

  1. Experience in regional planning in India; Five Year Plans; Integrated rural development programmes;
  2. Watershed management; Planning for backward areas, desert, drought-prone, hill, tribal area development; multi-level planning;
  3. Panchayati Raj and decentralization; Command area development;
  4. Regional planning and development of island territories.

Political Aspects

  1. Geographical basis of Indian federalism; State reorganization;
  2. Emergence of new states; Regional consciousness and interstate issues; international boundary of India and related issues;
  3. Cross border terrorism; India s role in world affairs; Geopolitics of South Asia and Indian Ocean realm.

Contemporary Issues: Ecological issues

  1. Best Geography Book for UPSC will include concepts like Environmental hazards: landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, floods and droughts, epidemics;
  2. Environmental pollution; Changes in land use pattern;
  3. Principles of environmental impact assessment and environmental management; Population explosion and food security;
  4. Environmental degradation; Deforestation, desertification, and soil erosion;
  5. Problems of agrarian and industrial unrest; Regional disparities in economic development;
  6. Concept of sustainable growth and development; Environmental awareness;
  7. Linkage of rivers; Globalization and Indian economy.

You can also go through the UPSC Mains syllabus at our official website.

Further, you can also go through the tips on how to prepare online for the IAS exam from home.

Paper I : Geography books for IAS exam

Below is a list of the important UPSC Geography optional books. So, let us look at the Geography optional book list:

Section A: Physical Geography – Best Geography Book for UPSC

Geomorphology Books

The UPSC Geography optional books under Physical Geography includes the following books-

  1. Principles of Geomorphology by W.D. Thornbury
  2. Physical Geography – Made Simple, Rupa Publisher, Diagrams, Savindra Singh
  3. Geomorphology by Savindra Singh

Climatology Books – Best UPSC Geography optional books

  1. Climatology by D.S.Lal, Critchfield
  2. Physical Geography – Made Simple, Rupa Publisher
  3. Physical Geography by Strahler & Strahler

Oceanography Books

Some of the Best Geography Books for UPSC on Oceanography are:

  1. NCERT books, Oceanography by Sharma & Vatal
  2. Physical Geography by Savindra Singh

Biogeography Books

  1. Physical Geography by Strahler & Strahler

Section B: Human Geography

The Geography optional book list for Human Geography are as follows:

Perspectives in Human Geography

Evolution of Geographic Thought by Majid Husain

Economic Geography Books

  1. Economic Geography by Hertshorn & Alexander, Rupa Publisher
  2. Agricultural Geography by Masjid Husain

Population Settlement – Best Geography Books for UPSC

  1. Human Geography by Majid Husain
  2. Urbanization & Urban Systems in India by Ramachandran
  3. Economic and Social Geography – Made Simple, Rupa Publishers
  4. A Geography by Population by R.C. Chandna
  5. Regional Planning: Regional Planning – by Chand & Puri

Environmental Geography Books

  1. Environmental Geography by Savindra Singh, or Saxena
  2. Economic and Social Geography – Made Simple, Rupa Publisher
  3. Political Geography by R.D.Dixit

Paper II – Geography books for IAS exam

Section A: Physical Setting

  1. Economic and Commercial Geography of India by Sharma & Coutinho
  2. Geography of India – Majid Husain
  3. Oxford School Atlas
  4. Certificate Physical and Human Geography – G.C. Leong
  5. Economic and Commercial Geography of India by C.B. Mamoria
  6. A Geography of India by Gopal Singh
  7. Resources: Economical Geography – A Study of Resources by Guha and Chattoraj (NCERT books)


  1. Agriculture Geography by Majid Husain – Important and one of the Best Geography Books for UPSC
  2. Indian Economy by Dutt and Sundaram
  3. India Year Book, published by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
  4. Hindu’s Survey on Agriculture.


  1. Economical and Commercial Geography of India by C.B. Mamoria, Sharma & Cuotino
  2. Economical and Commercial Geography by Sharma & Coutinho
  3. Indian Economy by Dutt and Sundaram
  4. The Hindu’s Survey on Industry
  5. Transport, Communication, and Trade
  6. India Year Book published by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

Section B: Cultural Setting

  1. Human Geography by Majid Husain
  2. Geography of Population by R.C.Chandna
  3. NCERT Books


Best Geography Book for UPSC on ‘Settlements’ are as follows:

  1. Human Geography by Majid Husain
  2. Urbanization and Urban Systems in India by Ramachandran
  3. Regional Development and Planning
  4. Regional Planning and Development by Chand and Puri
  5. India Year Book
  6. Indian Economy by Dutt and Sundaram
  7. Political Aspects: Modern Political Geography of India by B.L. Sukhwal.

Contemporary Issues

Further, you can summarize your Geography Optional preparation by practicing from the previous year question papers available at the official website of UPSC.

Atlas – Important part of the Geography optional book list

Best Geography Book for UPSC also includes any Atlas like Orient Blackswan or Oxford atlas, etc. So, pick any of the two atlases and support your preparation with maps and locations. As candidates aspiring to become IAS officers, you must know a thing or two about the Union Public Service Commission because the Interview panel often asks about the Commission itself.

Frequently Asked Questions – Geography Optional books

Do I have to choose another optional subject apart from Geography?

The candidate has to choose only one optional paper. Further, there are two optional papers in the Mains exam: Paper-I and Paper-II. So, this means that if you choose Geography as an optional paper, you will have to appear for both papers for Geography only. Also, the two papers are different parts of the same subject. Each paper is of 250 marks each.

What is the best way to study Geography optional?

The best way to study Geography optional is to interlink the subjects of the GS papers because Geography is a part of many other GS subjects. Also, this subject can be linked to the economy, politics, policy-making, etc. of a country. So when you read Geography, make sure that you prepare holistic notes by including varied aspects and sides to the existing concepts. Also, pick the best Geography books for IAS exam for your preparation.

How should one write the Geography optional paper?

Your Geography optional answer should reflect a more well-informed and subject-specialist approach. In other words, your answer should consist of theories and concepts specifically related to Geography and depict deeper views in comparison to other GS papers. Further, the GS papers test your general understanding of the subjects whereas you have to portray an in-depth understanding of Geography.

COVID-19 Update | Best Geography Book for UPSC

With the sword of the coronavirus pandemic hanging over everybody’s head, it had become very difficult for UPSC aspirants to continue with the UPSC exam preparation. But, online classes came to the rescue for many and students could prepare for the Prelims and Mains exam sitting at home. Many online classes for optional subjects like Geography came into the scene and this time has been well utilized by many to cover a major chunk of the optional syllabus. So, these trying times can be considered as an opportunity to study hard and smart so dreams of becoming an IAS/IPS officer can be attained.


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