Deathlands to me is the absolute best book series from this genre, incredibly well written and relatively obscure/hard to find series. My dad got me into these when I was only 10 or so and I give this series a lot of credit for my interest in the conspiracy realm:
"On the morning of January 20, 2001 the climax of the Cold War set the post-apocalyptic stage for the series. The end game began with a pre-emptive strike on Washington. Underground nuclear bombs were detonated from within the basement of the Soviet embassy, by an elite group of Spetsnaz operatives, destroying the central command structure and political system of the United States. For a indefinite period of time a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union devastated both countries and subsequently the entire planet (but little details are known outside both countries). All manner of genetic contagions were released infecting the survivors of the firestorm with horrible illnesses. The remaining survivors lived harshly during a time of prolonged nuclear winter known as 'Sky Dark'. The geography, climate, and ecosystems of the world had changed dramatically. What was left of the United States came to be known as the Deathlands."
They even made a movie about it on the SyFy channel, though kinda cheesy was still great to me since I have been such a huge fan of the novels. At the moment I am developing a video game based on the Deathlands series.
#2 The Road
This to me is exactly what I think a Nuclear Apocalypse would be like...the combination of No Hope and No Fear twisting into a disturbing nightmare. If you haven't seen this one I highly recommend it:
#3 Alas, Babylon
I didn't get a chance to read this until a few years ago, this was written in 1959 and although not a continuous/modern series like Deathlands it still has excellent character developments and plot lines:
"Sadly, this once-popular 1959 novel has been fading into obscurity for a long time. It is without doubt one of the best-imagined depictions of the aftermath of nuclear war for a small community that gets somewhat lucky regarding the fallout pattern. It is set in Florida. The protagonist gets a little bit of warning, due to the fact that his brother works for SAC. Then folks start figuring out what to do. It becomes almost a treatise on surviving once everything we accept as normal fails. Of particular interest is how race relations are treated… the reader must understand that this was written in the late 50′s, right before the civil rights movement, and many of today’s readers will come away with Malachai as their favorite character. Alas, Babylon must have been quite an eye-opener when it first hit the stands. Depictions such as a little girl figuring out out how to put fish on the table when they aren’t biting due to oppressive heat, and folks realizing that an actual expedition to find salt (of all things!) is critical to survival, combined with superb characterizations, make this one the best of all. An utter classic, and worth putting in your bomb shelter should you ever build one."
#4 The Postman
Follows the cliché "The book is better than the movie", and is entirely accurate for this. I actually would recommend watching the movie first then reading the book, if you already haven't, because it is that much better:
#5 The Night of the Comet
I remember seeing this a lot when I was a kid, and I am sure I like it mainly for its nostalgic value. It is a pretty off-beat and a funny look at an apocalypse scenario but I still love watching it!
#6 The Book of Eli
This was better than I expected it to be, I am kinda disappointed that they will not be making a sequel to this (as far as I know from interviews) because they left the ending very open to me:
#7 Mad Max
One of my earliest memories was Mad Max, absolutely one of the most badass nuclear warriors to have been created. Not only were the costumes a precursor to the now popular "Steampunk" style, the films also had an excellent storyline. The Road Warrior is the first of the series and the most grisly/graphic, highly recommended!
#8 The Dark Tower
Haters gonna' hate Stephen King but this is just as good as Deathlands but in a whole different way. The series of books 1-7. centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger who has been chasing after his adversary, "the man in black", for many years. The novel follows Roland's trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. King considers this his magnum opus.
#9 World War Z
World War Z followed the "laws" set up in The Zombie Survival Guide, and explained that the guide may exist in the world of the novel as a precursor to the Zombie War. The zombies of The Zombie Survival Guide are undead humans reanimated by an incurable virus, Solanum. They are devoid of intelligence and are motivated only by the desire to consume living flesh. The only way to destroy them is to destroy the brain, by any means. Although zombies are as strong as the humans they infect and do not tire, they are slow moving and incapable of planning or cooperation in their attacks. Zombies usually reveal their presence by moaning.
#10 Soylent Green
SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!
This movie has always freaked me out and you can see this happening today with the eugenics systems they seem to be implementing. I hear they are remaking the movie...only for real this time.
In 2022, the population has grown to forty million people in New York City alone. Housing is dilapidated and overcrowded; homeless people fill the streets and line fire escapes and stairways. Food is scarce; most of the population survives on rations produced by the Soylent Corporation, whose newest product is Soylent Green, a small green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton". It is more nutritious and palatable than the other varieties, Red and Yellow, but is in short supply, which leads to food riots.