Apocalyptic fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction that is concerned with the destruction of civilization, or even humanity itself. It can be traced back to apocalyptic mythology in ancient times, and in modern times, to Mary Shelley's 1826 novel The Last Man. Here are a few of my favorites:
Earth Abides (1949) by George R. Stewart. The main character, Ish, is a graduate student camping in the woods for a few weeks. In the interim, a horrendous plague sweeps the earth, killing almost the entire human race. The only common factor among the survivors is, strangely, that they have all been bitten by rattlesnakes at some point in their lives. Ish commits to rebuilding civilization, only to find that children born after the disaster have little desire to resurrect the past.
The Last Ship (1988) by William Brinkley. A U.S. Navy destroyer in the Barents Sea suddenly receives missile firing orders. Following often-drilled procedures, it immediately fires it nuclear payload into the Soviet Union, and then waits for further orders. None arrive. In fact, the Nathan James cannot receive any transmissions from the U.S. at all. Traveling south to Europe and thence to America, it finds no signs of human life. The task of preserving the human race apparently falls to them alone.
War Day (1984) by Whitley Streiber by James Kunetka. The authors, who were childhood friends, write as future version of themselves as they journey across an America devastated by an inexplicable and sudden nuclear war that occurred one day in 1984. It is, in my opinion, the most realistic depiction of nuclear war in fiction. For example, one major theme of the book is the wholesale destruction of the U.S. economy after only a handful of nuclear warheads hit it.
What are your favorite works of apocalyptic fiction?