For me, novels that don't connect with the ball can be tolerable if they at least feature an unfamiliar locale. At minimum, very OK books give me an excuse to get lost in my Atlas. The James Michener fans I've known have told me this was a large part of his appeal as an author. When was the last time a novel introduced you to a place that intrigued you even when the plot, characters or writing left you cold?
The first and best book club I ever joined once did a three month "exotic places" theme that took me to a speck of an island in the South Pacific (via "Tattoo Artist" by Jill Cement), the Amazon forest ("State Of Wonder" by Ann Patchett) and the Congo ("Brazzaville Beach" by William Boyd). And in those three cases, the ensuing Atlas riffing and book were worthwhile.
Several recent trips I've made have not been as successful as those. But it's still been instructive getting lost in my Atlas. If not for a few of those mediocre books, I might still be having trouble keeping straight the seven countries that all used to be part of what was once called Yugoslavia or having a vague understanding of the conflict in that part of Eastern Europe. Actually, the only reason I know Yugoslavia doesn't exist anymore is because of a few fair-to-middling books. Now there's a silver lining, right?