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The Book Reader: "The Tao Of Martha," "Homeward Bound: Why Women..."

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Bryan Lowder of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

Cooking, cleaning, sewing, canning-these and other domestic arts are in the midst of a renaissance. Homemaking tasks that used to be considered anti-feminist or just plain boring are now being rediscovered by women (and many men) across the country, their popularity enhanced by lifestyle TV and blogs that cover everything from crocheting to casserole baking.

This week’s titles offer two takes on the desire to go home again.

For most of us, attempting the homemaking feats of domestic icons like Ina Garten or Martha Stewart would be a daunting challenge-but not so for chatty memoirist Jen Lancaster.

In her most recent Penguin release, "The Tao Of Martha", Lancaster resolves to spend a year living by Stewart’s "good things" philosophy in order to make better sense of her home and herself. And while tasks like closet organizing and planting a rose garden require some effort to master, it’s Lancaster’s personal refurbishment that requires the most elbow grease.

For a more critical take on the homemaking trend, check out Emily Matchar’s "Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity", published by Simon and Schuster.

Matchar begins by asking why so many young women now dream of Vermont farm houses and homemade jam instead of SoHo lofts and gourmet takeout. Her fascinating investigation mixes the history of homemaking with insightful reporting on Etsy entrepreneurs, hipster homesteaders, attachment parenters and more besides, ultimately showing that the "New Domesticity" is a mixed bag-both a valid rejection of corporate culture and, sometimes, a misguided nostalgia for the past.

For more homey titles, check out the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.

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