1: The Collar Around the Heart by Old Softy The Collar Around the Heart of one of the most well-rounded stories here. The plot is intelligent and engaging to the end. The characterizations are superb. The protagonist's journey to manhood is handled with exceptional skill. The anachronistic/futuristic setting is disturbing and believable and lovingly detailed. In a genre filled with good stories, Old Softy has written one of the best coming of age stories on this site.
2: Intemperance by Al Steiner Al Steiner is the gold standard at SOL. I found this story and its sequel to be his most fascinating.
3: Life on the Bottom Rung by Tony Stevens There are some things that I can't imagine anyone disliking. Baseball stories are among those things. The "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" series is Tony Steven's contribution to the genre. Life on the Bottom Rung is the first story in that series. Tony's amiable first-person narratives are a pleasure to read. His stories are filled with authentic detail, the drama inherent in sport, and the drama inherent in relationships. While each of the stories is another tale about the life of a baseball player, there is no repetition. Each ball player is unique and has unique issues. It's hard to single out specific story because they are all so good, but if I were forced to choose one it would be Whatever It Takes.
4: Redivivus by tickledkitty This is the best story no one's ever read. Tickedkitty's characters are as natural and believable as you will find anywhere. Her settings are rich. I'm hoping to learn how her deft plotting is so effective. She's also one of the nicest people I know.
5: A Stitch In Time by Marsh Alien When it comes to narrative voice and humor, nobody beats Marsh Alien. I volunteered to edit his stories for him so that I wouldn't have to wait for him to post them. You also can't miss with Living Dolls, The Accidental Gigolo, and Show Moms. Of course, I almost took him off of my favorites list because of The Legendary C. P. Swallows.