Notable paperbacks

"Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times," by Eyal Press. (Picador, $15.) What impels people to defy authority and convention? Sharing insights from sociology, political theory, neuroscience and philosophy, Press traces the paths of four dissenters: a Swiss police commander who broke the law to help Jewish refugees in 1938; a Serb who saved Croats by lying about their ethnic identity; an Israeli soldier who refused to serve in the occupied territories; and a financial industry whistle-blower.

"No Time Like the Present," by Nadine Gordimer. (Picador, $16.) A mixed-race couple, veterans of the anti-apartheid movement, navigate the new South Africa in the Nobelist's wise political novel. "Only a novelist with Gordimer's gifts can offer so much information, at such depth, about the cataclysmic battles and the rough transition to peace that she and her characters have witnessed," Francine Prose wrote in the Book Review.

"Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation," by Elaine Pagels. (Penguin, $16.) Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton and the author of "The Gnostic Gospels" (1979), places the biblical Book of Revelation — the seven-headed beast, the whore of Babylon, apocalyptic images of the end of times — in the context of other ancient narratives of vision and prophecy.

"The Gods of Gotham," by Lyndsay Faye. (Berkley, $16.) This historical thriller offers a fascinating look at early police work among the untested and ill-trained "copper stars" who patrolled New York in the 19th century. Making the rounds of the wretched 6th Ward in the summer of 1845, Faye's damaged hero, Timothy Wilde, encounters new depths of depravity: a serial killer who is butchering child prostitutes.

"As Texas Goes …: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda," by Gail Collins. (Liveright/Norton, $15.95.) The New York Times columnist's breezy polemic pictures Texas — with its zest for guns, military adventures, right-wing dogma, regressive taxes, deregulation and privatization — as an ideological oil spill.