AT first glance, it is really nothing special. We never bought IKEA’s Billy bookcase because we thought it was some architectural masterpiece or admired it for its looks (although I may be wrong in my stylistic judgment here, since IKEA says it estimates "the book lover's choice that never goes out of style" is sold somewhere in the world "every five seconds").

Still, this semi-wooden structure is probably one of my flats most treasured items. I look at it every day. It brings me comfort and joy. It’s an integral part of this physical structure we – my partner and I – call home.

What is it about the personal bookshelf? I too love book shops and their carefully curated displays. When I visited my hometown recently, I was so euphoric that I didn’t notice I had, out of pure habit, walked to the kid/teenager section I used to frequent prominently.

I too love libraries and the endless rows of books. The special smell a collection of old books has, the comfortable atmosphere these public spaces often provide. The openness of them that I have no limitation to access, no prices to consider.

Still, there’s something special about my small at-home collection. Why? For those that own and love their personal bookcase the same way I do, I assume it is what you make of it – or rather what you fill it with.

My collection of books is never static. Items have been shifted; itineraries re-arranged. On a particular boring day during lockdown, I had decided to sort the shelves alphabetically – a structure now long gone; as I glance over, Plath is wedged beside Bukowski, Welsh beside Gravia.

The content has changed, too. Seeing the now full shelves, I think back to when I first moved to the UK with only the one book I took with me on the plane (the German version of The Life of Pi).

When my partner and I moved in together, our collections merged, leading to another careful stock rotation. New books are bought, but the Billy’s limited shelf space, as well as our small flat with lack of floorspace and storage and its brittle walls, are preventing us from expanding our personal library too much for now. So, new items arrive, and others are relocated to the little pile beside my bed, given to friends or to the charity shop.

During the deeply thought over and carefully curated clear-outs I must have, not all books make the cut, but some do time and time again, and it is those bookshelf regulars I find myself pausing at when scanning the rows for what to read next (or again).

When I once previously wrote about re-discovering my love for reading, I argued that books are so much more than short-term pleasures. That they are “treasure troves that page by page and over time mould those that read them.” At the time I had written these words in the context of how books can inspire and lead to future careers – it was because of my love for reading, re-discovered later in life, that I wanted to be a writer after all.

I still believe this to be true. What I would add today is that they can help shape identity and provide a prism through which to view the world – something that was immensely helpful throughout my twenties, during which there has been so much change.

Paolo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage re-ignitied my love for reading when I was travelling and made me think about what I wanted from life when I returned home. Recently, Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love made me think about the value of friendships. Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library made me think about obsessing too much about past lives. They are only some examples of many others that have helped me shape my perspective on life.

That, of course, is true of any book – no matter if it is a written text, an audio book, or e-book.

My bookcase, however, is a physical manifestation of this. I can look at it and dwell; I can look at it and smile. For me, it is the physical reminders that trigger memories. I can see stages of my life through the words of others bound together and sitting side by side.

It is one of the reasons I, despite the inpracticality of it, chose to take physical books with me on holiday recently; in case one of them might become a new bookshelf regular (plus, I like not being on my phone or screen for a change).

I am not the first to write an ode to the bookcase or physical books. Many similar pieces have been written – often within the context of a potential e-book takeover and fears over the decline of reading for leisure.

When it comes to the continuing digitalisation of our world and what we know, I – as a younger person – am part of the generation often accused of destroying traditions and spending too much time on our phone. That people might think the love for physical books then is also declining is something I can understand – but it is far from true.

The opposite has become apparent to me when recently speaking with a group of other young people who are launching a book club "for people to figure things out through books and read through their twenties" (@itshardbackouthere on Instagram). We talked about how books have helped us dissect turbulent times we all agreed our twenties are.

It seems, no matter what generation, reading books as a prism to understand yourself, your surroundings, and shape remains something universally valued.

If you want further evidence, all you need to do is look at social media. Whoever thought that the end of reading or the physical book was near did not foresee BookTok – a subcommunity on TikTok and hashtag used by users to share their favourite books and recommendations with followers, which at the point of writing have garnered more than 140 billion views. Videos prominently feature hardback copies of these books – often a mixture of old and new (the Virgin Suicides, a book that this year celebrated its 30th birthday, has been a big fixture).

A survey by the Publishers Association showed that almost two-thirds (59 per cent) of the 16-25 year olds questioned said the trend helped them discover a passion for reading and, when it comes to sales, research by Nielsen BookData found that print books were the preferred choice for UK readers aged 13-24, and accounted for 80% of purchases, between November 2021 and November 2022.

Cynically, some might say it is just a fad, but they will have forgotten the magic of books. Once you are hooked, stories – the way they made you think and feel – stay with you. That so many young people are loving reading, therefore, can only be a good thing. It certainly shows: the printed book is not going to lose importance any time soon.