6. Wake Up,Sir! by Jonathan Ames This is the first title I've culled from someone else's post, and boy...did I pick well! Whoever put this up, thank you! I've discovered a new author (and you all know what a great feeling that is) as well as read a book about characters I'd love to meet in real life, but wouldn't want to spend too much time with.
7. On Beauty by Zadie Smith. About one third of the way through this book, I was struck with the feeling that things would not end well for the family at the center of this book, and did I really want to know their story? But the Belsey family has some magnetism, maybe it's in their flaws, and I hung in there. I'm glad I did, because the it's not a bad ending, perhaps not the one expected (because a LOT happens in the last two chapters), but it is a believable, real life kind of ending. Their story isn't particularly original (husband, midlife crisis; wife, loss of self; daughter and son, establishing independence from the family) but the voices of the characters are very original.
8. Bad Dirt, Wyoming Stories 2 by Annie Proulx Annie Proulx inspires me to be a better writer. She's one of the best short story writers alive, and I'd put her up against most of the dead ones too.
9. The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames Louis Ives loses his job as a teacher in a Princeton, NJ boarding school, because of a minor cross dressing incident, and decides to start over in New York City. He also decides to continue on his path towards being a "young gentleman", using Fitzgerald and Waugh as his guides. Louis shares a rundown apartment with an eccentric elderly man who supplements his teacher's income by being an extra man (a well mannered man called upon to "even up" the male to female ratio at society events attended by rich old widows). Louis also uses the move to NYC as a chance to explore his interests in transsexuals and cross dressing. Ames' strength is creating flawed but lovable characters who live lives on the happy side of Delusion Street. Because it's fiction, they're able to stay there, happily ever after.
10. Starting Out in the Evening by Brian Morton. This seems like a simple little story about a stalker-ish women who insinuates herself into the life of a writer she's always admired, and the writer's lonely daughter. Underneath the words, it's a story about the mortality of dreams and icons and people, and why we humans keep on going in spite of knowing that nothing we can hold on to lasts forever.