Anthropology Booklist for Self Study

Here is a topic-wise, detailed book list for beginners in Anthropology.

Fri Apr 16, 2021

Anthropology Booklist for Self Study

Detailed Topic-Wise Booklist for Beginners Who Want to Study for Anthropology Optional by Themselves (SELF STUDY)

If you are preparing for Anthropology optional by SELF-STUDY and without the guidance or coaching from anyone else, you need a reliable list of books that will help you prepare for the Mains Exam, 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 to be able to clear this exam. 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 and what is given here, or at your discretion.
  3. This detailed booklist was made for aspirants who want to study by themselves, and for various reasons cannot or will not join any coaching or training. If you are joining the online course at, you are not expected to specially purchase additional resources.
  4. Each person is different, with a different set of strengths and style of thinking. There may be a book outside this list that you are already comfortable using, so use your wisdom before investing in more resources.
  5. I have heard from aspirants who are disappointed or anxious after spending a very large amount on elaborate booklists with multiple books for each topic, for the optional self-study. It is not necessary to invest in redundancies while studying by yourself, so some of these books below are not-compulsory (as I describe beneath them). Make a choice according to your situation, and capacity so you are not going to resent the subject you are trying to learn. It is important to at least like anthropology or any subject, to understand it, so start small if you need to.
  6. Please BOOKMARK THIS PAGE (or add to favourites) for your easy reference. If you know other aspirants who may find this useful, please share the link to this post with them.
  7. 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, revision and conceptual clarity. The scope of the topics change each year, and there is a degree of unpredictability in every optional paper, as well as the mains exam. Please also note that past observations are not reliable indicators of the future in a dynamic competitive examination such as the UPSC.

The Book list

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.

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.

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.

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 compulsory reading if you have another resource or already bought Ember, Ember and Peregrene’s “Anthropology”, but this book is preferable as it provides more nuanced details for major socio-cultural anthropological concepts.

Veena Tucker’s “Research Methods in Social Sciences”

  • Research methods in anthropology

My Note: Most Mains questions from this chapter so far have been pretty 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, so you don’t lose marks in the relatively easier questions.  This book outlines merits and demerits of most of the methods.

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 much more 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 detailed and not all information given is necessary for your answers.

Till the last few years, many aspirants were able to succeed without specially focusing much on the Anthropological Theories/Contributions, but in recent years, it is necessary to study these in detail to score well.

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 very strong grasp of Ancient Indian History from your preparation for GS, but make sure you focus on culture for answering these questions in the optional if you are not using this reference for this topic.

Nadeem Hasnain’s “Tribal India”

  • (PAPER II) Tribal situation in India
  • (PAPER II) Problems of the tribal Communities, etc.

Nadeem Hasnain’s “Indian Anthropology”

  • PAPER II Topics:
    • Caste
    • Ethnicity
    • Village Studies, etc

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

India Yearbook of the Latest Year

My Note: Refer this 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. 

e-Book and Paperback is available for sale on the Govt. website (

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

List of Websites