Since the market is filled with sociology optional books and materials in abundance for each topic and micro topic, it is very easy for fresh aspirants to get confused with respect to which sources to target. It is not uncommon to see aspirants hoarding up piles of books and then losing confidence in their preparation.
Every topper from our institute could not stress enough on the importance of limiting resources and revising multiple times. As opposed to it, aspirants who pile up resources and believe in reading maximum amount of material, often are able to recall very little when sitting in the exam hall. As our toppers have emphasized multiple times, “if you haven’t read it thrice, you have not read it at all.”
To make one’s mind on which sources to confine one’s self to is another difficulty in itself. Ten different aspirants will vouch for ten different sociology optional books. However there are certain books which have withstood the test of time and change in UPSC exam pattern.
We have thus prepared a list of these tried and tested standard sociology optional books and the strategy that needs to followed for Sociology Optional.
If sociology is not your graduation subject, it is best to not go after heavy read books like Haralambos or Ritzer immediately. You may not be able to comprehend it and even if you do, a lay man’s reading and understanding is completely different from the reading of a student of sociology.
It is thus best to attend your IAS Gurukul classes religiously and make comprehensive notes in the class.
After a daily reading of your notes after each class and one separate reading after the course is complete, a single thorough reading of the printed material made available needs to be done as it is specifically designed comprehensively for UPSC.
After you develop a significant sociological base and understanding, the following sociology optional books are suggested.
This book provides an in-depth understanding of all sociological thinkers and theories. It will solidify your sociology base.
It is thus advisable to read the book once and in your second reading, incorporate all the important points on each thinker and theories on separate sheets and attach it to your class notes.
After that, the book can be used only occasionally for reference. This book along with your class notes is more than sufficient for your sociology thinkers and you do not need to look for any other source book or material.
Another book of sociology which is very comprehensive in itself and provides an in-depth understanding of sociological concepts like ‘sex and gender ‘or ‘poverty and exclusion’ is the Haralambos (the blue one).
The drawback with this book though is that you will never be able to open it just before the exams.
It is very important that you go through your class notes twice before you read this book. After a single reading of the book, which definitely increases your understanding of the social concepts, you have to very selectively pick case studies which you feel you can add in your answers to give it an extra edge .You then need to write it in your own words and make separate notes from it for each topic.
It is very likely that you will not get time to revisit this book again.
Essential Sociology by Nitin Sangwan is a book written by an ex-aspirant and now bureaucrat himself, which is why it is structured and easy to comprehend. The book can be especially consulted for the ‘Research Methods’ section, which has been presented in a structured method specific to UPSC exam requirements.
Compared to Paper 1 which is static, Paper 2 is more dynamic. Hence the IAS Gurukul Class notes which are continuously updated are the most important source for paper 2.
After you develop a basic understanding of sociology, you will realize that even the light anecdotes Sir shares with his students in the class have a sociological relevance and are meant to deliver the message in subtle way.
The printed material too is developed by extensive research and continuously updated on a regular basis.
Apart from it, the books to be read are:
Selective reading of the magazine Economic and Political Weekly is also recommended for sociology of India, so that you can add new and relevant sociological research in your notes.
It is also advisable to update your notes from your newspaper readings - say, the name of a relatively unknown sociologist-to get that extra mark from the examiner.
Also if something is continuously in news, notes on its sociological relevance need to be made from the newspaper. For example, a lot of sociological analysis of MGNREGA was in the newspapers when it was in limelight and it found its way into many question papers.
To sum it up, the best Sociology optional books and sources are: